Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Education

First Advisor

J. M. Hartley

Abstract

ABSTRACT

REVEALING THE ROLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN A DIVERSE DEMOCRACY: A THEORY OF COLLEGE STUDENT

POLITICAL IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT

Demetri L. Morgan

J. Matthew Hartley

This dissertation sought to investigate how students make meaning of their curricular and cocurricular educational experiences while in college to better theorize how and why these experiences influence the development of their political identity. To date, research has shown that people who attend college are more likely to be civically and politically engaged compared to those who do not attend college. Yet few studies have sought to ascertain what about the totality of a person’s college experiences lead to these outcomes. Using multiple qualitative data sources and constructivist grounded theory analysis, this study develops a framework to explain the intrapersonal process of developing a political identity in college. Additionally, drawing on data sources that illuminate the socio-political environment of the state as well as aspects of the institutions’ culture, this study provides new insights into the ways in which a student’s political identity is shaped by the political culture of an institution and state. This led to the production of a theory that argues that postsecondary institutions can be critical democratic institutions that remediate or perpetuate political inequities in society in nuanced ways. Implications and future research that stem from this theory are relevant to faculty, student affairs professionals, students, policymakers, and those concerned with higher education’s role in a diverse democracy.

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