Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy





First Advisor

Robert D. Reason


There are two important premises at the core of the American democracy: inclusion and dissent. Focusing on the premise of democratic dissent, the overarching goal of this study is understanding how colleges may encourage desirable civic outcomes. This dissertation is proceeds in an alternative format, containing three distinct manuscripts. Chapter 1 provides background and framed the subsequent manuscripts. Chapter 2 examines the measurement properties of survey scales, paying specific attention to potential differences by gender, race, and class year, and considering how these differences may affect findings and conclusions. Using confirmatory factor analysis and multi-group confirmatory factor analysis, four latent factors were hypothesized and confirmed. Test of invariance examined measurement on the basis of gender, race, and class year. Findings suggested these four factors were invariant. Chapter 3 enumerates campus opportunities that shape students’ perceptions and predict campus climate that encourages civic learning and engagement. The study utilized ecological theory and data collected from the PSRI and utilized two-level multi-level modeling. Associations between student characteristics (e.g., race, personality), educational practices (e.g., diversity courses, first year seminars), and subjective measures of environment (e.g., perceived advocacy by campus professionals) were all revealed as potential levers for shaping students’ perception of climate. Chapter 4 examines how college students’ background, engagement, and perceptions are related to the development of an orientation towards activism and dissent by using the Activism Orientation Scale (AOS). The study utilized ecological theory and data collected from the PSRI, employing OLS regression. Some findings were consistent with previous scholarship on civic outcomes; however, two key findings were surprising. Chapter 5 revisits ideas from Chapter 1 in light of findings, concluding the dissertation. This dissertation adds to the growing literature that connects the subjective environment to student outcomes and emphasizes the conceptual value of campus climates for student development. Higher education, through both educational practices and campus climate, can shape civic learning towards activism (i.e., collective, social-political action taking).

Copyright Owner

Kevin Michael Hemer



File Format


File Size

141 pages

Included in

Education Commons