Dissertations and Theses @ UNI

Award Winner

Recipient of the 2019 Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award - Third Place.

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Open Access Dissertation


Community and college--Middle West; Service learning--Middle West;


In U.S. education system, the growing gap in the engagement of various groups and types of students is wider than ever (Darling-Hammond, 2015). Therefore, there is a need to bridge the gap in engagement by ensuring that either personal or social circumstances such as gender, student status, ethnic groups etc. are not obstacles to achieving educational potential in higher education (Williams & Whiting, 2016; Greene, Marti, & McClenney, 2008; McClenney & Marti, 2006). Using both longitudinal and cross-sectional perspectives advocated by Fuller, Wilson and Tobin (2011); Gordon, Ludlum, and Hoey (2008); and Astin and Lee (2003), this study examined students’ level of engagement during their freshman year and senior year to understand the changes in engagement over time. This study further examined the difference in student engagement comparing male and female students, white and non-white students, international and domestic students, traditional and nontraditional students, first-generation and non-firstgeneration students, and academic majors by college (College of Arts and Humanities, College of Business, College of Education, and College of Social Sciences).

The difference in student engagement was studied using data from 2013 to 2016 administration of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) survey in a comprehensive Midwestern university. This study adopted two of Kuh’s (2008) highimpact practices (community-based learning and diversity experiences) and one of NSSE’s benchmarks of effective educational practices (student-faculty interaction) which served as the measures of student of engagement. These measures provided a representation of the dimensions of students’ experiences in association with engagement.

Ninety-seven students participated in the longitudinal aspect of this study and 4,773 students participated in the cross-sectional study. The findings of the longitudinal perspective of this study highlight the importance of ensuring that there is no decline in the engagement of students in educational activities from admission through graduation. Furthermore, the findings of the cross-sectional perspective provide insight into the extent to which different types of students are engaged in colleges and universities. Holistically, the findings of this study illuminate the need to bridge the gap in engagement. Findings could be used to improve the engagement and overall satisfaction of students in higher education.

Year of Submission


Year of Award

2019 Award

Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Department of Health, Recreation, and Community Services

First Advisor

Julianne Gassman, Chair

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (xi, 144 pages)



File Format