Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Robert D. Reason


This qualitative study explores the civic engagement experiences of six student participants who identify as African American, Asian, Latino/a and Native American. Considering the emphasis the previous research has put on multicultural students' lack of participation in civic engagement (Foster-Bey, 2008; Levine, 2009; Verba, Scholzman & Brady, 1995) and current efforts to reform civic education (Sherrod, Torney-Purta & Flanagan, 2010), the specific goal of this thesis is to bring the voices of the multicultural student participants into current discussions on civic engagement.

Using phenomenology as a methodological framework, the participants were purposefully selected from a large, land-grant, Midwestern university to take part in semi-structured interviews. Data were coded, thematically analyzed and organized into two areas: (1) sense of belonging; and (2) making sense of civic engagement.

Sense of belonging was found to have a profound impact on the participants' experiences of civic engagement. Defined by the participants as a feeling of connectedness, sense of belonging motivated them to seek out civic engagement opportunities and to stay focused to perform their civic-related activities. At the same time, the participants described how a feeling of disconnect and inability to "fit" in negatively affected their attitude towards civic engagement and discouraged their participation in civic service activities. Three factors were found to be instrumental in shaping the participants' sense of belonging in relation to civic engagement: (1)community; (2) discourse, and (3) university.

The findings of the study have implications for various constituencies, including student affairs professionals, faculty and institution administrators. Recommendations for future research include exploring multicultural and international students' civic engagement experiences in relation to such factors as geographical location, public and private institutions, and ethnic culture. Furthermore, continued exploration of multicultural students' experiences of civic engagement would help to get a more nuanced understanding of the varied ways in which students of color are contributing to the civic life in the United States.


Copyright Owner

Ganna Kokoza



File Format


File Size

93 pages