Campus Environmental Factors Influencing Student Leadership Development and Civic Engagement
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Higher education institutions are continuously called upon by society to prepare students to be engaged citizens. Leadership is a core component to an individual being an actively engaged citizen. How do college students learn and develop leadership skills? How do college students learn and become civically engaged during their collegiate years? The purpose of this study was to identify campus environmental factors perceived to influence student leadership development and civic engagement that resulted in students’ perceived capacity to create positive social change. The study was conducted at a public four-year comprehensive higher education institution regionally located in the south central region of the United States. This qualitative study examined undergraduate students’ perceptions of personal leadership, influences on personal leadership development, and experiences with leadership and civic engagement. Following a naturalistic qualitative research method, interviews were conducted with ten undergraduate participants. Hoy and Miskel (2001) higher education organizations social system model and A Social Change Model of Leadership Development by the Higher Education Research Institute (1996) was used as conceptual frameworks for the study. The researcher determined from participant responses that peer and mentor relationships, community identity, personal identity, and democratic experiences were key environmental factors influencing student leadership development and civic engagement. Collegiate relationships with peers and faculty/staff mentors were a primary influential factor to participants’ university experiences resulting in their perceived knowledge of leadership and value for civic engagement. Identity as a campus community member and local community member was an environmental factor influencing participants’ commitment to civic engagement. Participants who were engaged in their personal cultural heritage articulated a deeper understanding of leadership and had a greater commitment to engaging with ethnically diverse populations. Participants who experienced the tenants of Democratic values in their academic and co-curricular experiences had a deeper sense of empowerment to create positive social change. The conclusions drawn from the researcher’s findings indicate the depth to which campus environmental factors influence student leadership development and civic engagement result in the level students’ build their leadership knowledge and capacity. The intent of the study was to gain an understanding of a campus environment through the constructed reality of individuals within the environment in order to determine factors that can be enhanced to improve leadership development and civic engagement.
Boren, Laura (2011). Campus Environmental Factors Influencing Student Leadership Development and Civic Engagement. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from