Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Jill M. Tarule


Functional democracy in a just society requires citizens who are complex thinkers and skilled, caring leaders. This study examines how undergraduate college students become committed citizens, the kind demanded by our changing world. In particular, it addresses the developmental and experiential factors that influence students' journeys of commitment to the public good, and how students understand their lived experiences integrating these diverse influences. Framed by my constructivist epistemology, I used the qualitative tradition of narrative inquiry to address these questions. I interviewed twelve highly engaged students about their experiences in diverse community-based work and learning over four years of college. I share narratives of each participant, then use cross-case analysis to identify themes across their experiences. I learned how they came to identify their roles in society and how key developmental and experiential influences shaped their processes of becoming civically committed. Students experienced growth in three main areas: Connection (their sense of ownership around community work); Mattering (their sense of belonging among change makers and others); and Purpose (their sense of direction in making social change). This study allows educators within higher education to better understand the complex processes of civic commitment development and how to holistically support college students in fostering a sense of civic identity and responsibility that leads to lifelong nurturance of their commitment to the public good.



Number of Pages

275 p.