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Creating social connections in higher education: insights from the Campus Canines Program at the University of Pittsburgh

Camaioni, Nicole (2013) Creating social connections in higher education: insights from the Campus Canines Program at the University of Pittsburgh. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The overall purpose of this study was to capture the relationships made during the Campus Canines Program, an animal-assisted activity program, at the University of Pittsburgh. Meaningful social relationships create greater educational satisfaction. These social relationships are an important piece to creating and sustaining student involvement, and therefore retention, in a college environment. Therefore, the current study is significant because Campus Canines Program may be a program that fosters these important relationships for students.

This study used a case study approach that included two mixed-method online instruments. Both surveys are comprised of close-ended quantitative questions and open-ended qualitative questions. During the 2012 Spring Academic Term, a census of the entire population was conducted. This census determined the entire student population to be 270 and volunteer population to be 20. The canine population of 22 was also determined but only for informational purposes. All 270 students were selected for this study and 69 responded to the survey with a 25.5% response rate. All 20 volunteers were selected to participate in this study and 11 responded to the survey with a 55% response rate.

Overall, the results suggest that the Campus Canines Program does create a program for student involvement and may support established relationships. The key findings include (1) the dogs may aid in communication with other participants, (2) the program specifically supports established relationships between friends and family, and (3) the Campus Canine Program may provide stress relief. In the first key finding, the dogs act as a social stimulant. This supports the literature that states animals provide a safe environment to promote communication between people. The second key finding shows that the Campus Canines Program specifically supports established relationships between friends and family. These results support the literature which indicates that the human-animal relationship may aid in the development of social networks. Lastly, the third key finding shows that stress relief is a benefit of this program. This does support the literature that states interaction with animals produces physiological benefits.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairJacob, W. Jameswjacob@pitt.eduWJACOB
Committee MemberMcClure, Maureenmmcclure@pitt.eduMMCCLURE
Committee MemberGunzenhauser, Michaelmgunzen@pitt.eduMGUNZEN
Committee MemberMarcus, Dawndmarcus@pitt.eduDMARCUS
Date: 13 May 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 19 March 2013
Approval Date: 13 May 2013
Submission Date: 24 April 2013
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 111
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Human-animal interactions, higher education, social capital, student services
Date Deposited: 13 May 2013 17:31
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:12


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