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Crossing Borders for Civic Engagement: A Narrative Inquiry of Service-Learning's Participant Perspectives

Mann, Jessica (2017) Crossing Borders for Civic Engagement: A Narrative Inquiry of Service-Learning's Participant Perspectives. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Service-learning initiatives often serve as higher education’s approach to achieving institutional goals of fostering students’ civic growth. Alternative Spring Breaks (ASBs), defined in this study as short-term immersion trips developed to engage college students in direct service experiences, have been understudied as service-learning programmatic options in higher education, thus leaving little to no indication of the larger context of the service experience, nor its participant outcomes in terms of civic engagement (Jones, Robbins, & LePeau, 2011).

This study addresses gaps in researcher and practitioner understanding of ASBs, by uncovering long-term effects of these widely utilized, yet under-researched programs. Through a narrative inquiry methodology, this study captures the stories of five alternative spring break participants from a mid-sized suburban private institution which organizes two domestic ASBs yearly. The respondent narratives speak to service-learning’s ability to not only engage students in cross-cultural experiences, but to also cross internal borders within themselves, challenging pre-conceived notions of otherness and social issues. This study highlights the aesthetic and emotive meaning participants ascribe to their service experience long-term, noting shifts in their civic mindfulness and cultural sensitivity as well as propensity to civically engage post- graduation.

By studying students’ experiences with border-crossing, challenging pre-conceived notions of difference, and individual civic responsibility development, this study unpacks the alternative spring break participant perspective shift and development experience. Through the use of Dewey’s philosophy of education and Giroux’s theory of border-crossing, this study sheds light on the blind spots of service-learning, specifically ASBs, generating critique of the pedagogy in the hope of advancing the field, and ultimately the experience for future alternative spring break participants.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Mann, Jessicajlm318@pitt.edujlm3180000-0001-7206-604X
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGunzenhauser, Michaelmgunzen@pitt.edumgunzen
Date: 20 April 2017
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 9 December 2016
Approval Date: 20 April 2017
Submission Date: 6 April 2017
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 181
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: higher education, service-learning, alternative spring breaks, civic engagement
Date Deposited: 20 Apr 2017 13:16
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2017 05:15


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