Exploring institutional culture and student civic engagement
Scott, Joel Houston
MetadataShow full item record
The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore how institutional culture impacts student civic engagement through the perceptions, interpretations, and experiences of students. Utilizing a constructivist design, this combination interview and document (photo) analysis study examined a group of students who were civically engaged at one large, public research-extensive institution. Themes emerged from two separate sets of individual and photo-elicitation interviews that contribute to the emerging body of literature on institutional culture and student civic engagement. The positive impact of institutional culture on student civic engagement was three-fold. Students described how South East University (SEU) helped build upon their pre-college civic foundation by expanding their civic experiences through various opportunities, by expanding their understanding of what civic engagement means, and by expanding their sense of effectiveness and practice of civic engagement. Students expressed how the university was their primary community for civic engagement, which has implications for educators, as well as added weight and depth to the institutional messages students perceived about civic engagement. Students perceived positive, negative, and mixed messages about civic engagement from their institution. The presence of civic engagement through on-campus venues and having supportive relationships with other members of the institution were messages of institutional support for civic engagement. The negative messages were described as different forms of institutional neglect: neglect of student voice and inclusion; neglect of sufficient support; neglect of diversity integration; and the neglect of student friendly systems for civic involvement. Students shared that the strong emphasis on sports, the pursuit of institutional prestige, and the presence of excess and student consumption were mixed messages about the importance of civic engagement. The other mixed message represented the lack of visibility for civic engagement on-campus based upon a lack of promotion and emphasis. Finally, the integration of service and civic learning within the curricular and co-curricular systems and institutional engagement among all members of the institution highlighted how students envisioned a campus culture focused on civic engagement. Research questions focused on impact, messages, and student voice, providing rich recommendations for centralizing, visualizing, and mobilizing a campus culture of student civic engagement.