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Understanding the Initiating Factors of Civic Engagement

Herman, Everett (2018) Understanding the Initiating Factors of Civic Engagement. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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A concern of a lack of civic engagement among college students has been attributed to stagnant voting habits (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, 2016), low levels in political engagement such as participating in public demonstrations for a cause (Eagan et al., 2016), and low levels of civic knowledge (Berti, 1994; Delval, 1994; Galston, 2001). These factors have been correlated with sustained civic engagement later in life (Eyler & Giles Jr., 1999; Pancer, 2014). Therefore, research exploring the initiating factors of civic engagement among youth could form the foundation for a diverse, educated citizenship fundamental to an effective democracy (Dewey, 1916; The National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement, 2012).

An interview study of applicants to an academically-based civic engagement program at a large, state-related research university, was conducted to address these questions: 1) What were the initiating factors for a select group of undergraduate students who applied for a specific academically-based civic engagement fellowship program? And 2) What are the perceived future expectations for civic engagement among applicants for a specific academically-based civic engagement fellowship program? The interview protocol used questions to elicit data that provides insights regarding the initiating factors of civic engagement according to Pancer’s (2014) theory of civic engagement.

Most applicants had social influences that fostered a shared value of a norm of reciprocity and social responsibility. Furthermore, instrumental motives helped several of the participants overcome financial obstacles to participation. Participants indicated a perception that they were expecting and looking forward to engaging in communities they had not explored during their college experience, learning how the community functions while developing valuable leadership skills and self-confidence to prepare them for a variety of career options.

Future study could explore the relationship between initiating factors among college students that either do not wish to be or have not yet been civically engaged. Higher education policies could investigate ways to integrate the community into curriculum. Lastly, higher education practitioners could benefit from professional development focused on fostering a supportive environment for civic engagement.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Herman, Everettelh63@pitt.eduelh63
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairTananis,
Committee MemberDeAngelo,
Committee MemberGarcia,
Committee MemberPetracchi,
Date: 24 September 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 3 April 2018
Approval Date: 24 September 2018
Submission Date: 13 August 2018
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 174
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: civic engagement higher education
Date Deposited: 24 Sep 2018 19:15
Last Modified: 24 Sep 2018 19:15


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