Published by the Texas Association of College and University Personnel Administrators

Volume 4                                        Fall 2018                                        Issue 1

Jennifer T. Edwards, Editor

Tarleton State University

Tiffany J. Davis

University of Houston

Griselda Flores

Stephen F. Austin State University

Kimberly Thornton

Texas Tech University

Johnny Robinson

The University of Texas at Arlington

Ricardo Montelongo

Sam Houston State University

Editor’s Introduction - I am excited to present the newest issue of the TACUSPA Journal (Student Affairs on Campus). This issue of the journal is focused on relationships. These relationships range from students/university relationships to student/society relationships. As you explore the fourth issue of this journal, think about how higher education professions can help students form deeper relationships with their college/university community.

Table of Contents

Student Engagement: Qualitative Exploration of NSSE


Elizabeth Wallace & Lora Helvie-Mason

Programs and Services to Support Single Mothers in Graduating with a Postsecondary Education: A Delphi Study


Dawnetta Smith

A Microsystem of Support for Students Who Experienced

Foster Care


Nerissa Gillum, Lorna Durrant, Monica Mendez-Grant, Precious Wells, Ahmyl-Mai Jaber

An Exploration of the Relationships between Student Retention and Self-Efficacy


Rachel Cinquepalmi

Campus Activism: Racial Tensions, Political Choices, and Poor Decision Making


Kalyn Cavazos

The Impact Social Media has on College Student’s Emotions towards Social Justice  


Ahmet Aksoy

Book Review - Generation Z Goes to College


Ashlee Noblin & Shonda Sears

Student Engagement

Student Engagement: A Qualitative Exploration of NSSE

Elizabeth Wallace

Tarleton State University

Lora Helvie-Mason

Tarleton State University


This paper explores student reflections on the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) in order to understand their perceptions of the diversity block of NSSE questions. Researchers conducted focus groups after first-year student participants completed the NSSE.  After participants read the NSSE question, they reflected upon the question explaining their interpretations and thoughts. After a qualitative content analysis of the focus groups, participant perceptions fed into four primary themes: Marketing, NSSE Impact/Clarity, Motivation, and living environment. Participants are more likely to attend events if peers are attending, find informal discussions in the residence halls impactful, review invitations through email but determine attendance based on peers and distance, and found some of the NSSE questions to be vague or unclear.          

Keywords: Engagement, NSSE, college, involvement, diversity

Student Engagement

Universities nationwide conduct the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) to examine college students’ participation and engagement at their universities. Upon receipt of results from each administration of the NSSE, the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness provides an overview of the most recent findings. Upon receipt of the 2013 results, faculty members sought to delve into the students’ thinking related to the answering of certain questions. Specifically, the faculty members sought to more fully explore the participants’  thoughts regarding the following questions: During the current school year, to what extent have events or activities offered at your institution emphasized perspectives on societal differences (economic, ethnic, political, religious, etc.); During the current school year, about how often have you attended events or activities that encouraged you to examine your understanding of the following (economic, ethnic, political, religious, etc.); During the current school year, about how often have you had discussions about the following: economic, ethnic, political, religious, etc.?

        To address the faculty members’ desire to understand student thoughts when answering these questions, researchers obtained Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval and held focus groups in spring 2015 within two weeks of the conclusion of the 2015 NSSE. Focus groups conducted within this timeframe allowed participants to recall their recent experiences clearly.

        This paper details the project of seeking student input, presents a brief overview of related literature, reviews the methodology used, discusses findings and identified themes, and concludes with limitations and recommendations for future research.

Literature Review

         This literature review covers the origins of the survey, the role of residential facilities, and student motivation theory. While not exhaustive, these introductions provide a foundation upon which the findings build.

The National Survey of Student Engagement

        In order to provide a meaningful measure of quality to the uses of resources throughout regional accreditation processes, institutions adopted and used the NSSE. The NSSE launched, via pilot, in 1999. The next year, 2000, 275 colleges and universities participated in the nation-wide, inaugural launch. In 2015, 587 institutions totaling 323,801 students participated in the NSSE.

At the same time, third-party determinants of “quality” focused on student selectivity and faculty credentialing. A body of researchers and practitioners believed that “none of these get at the heart of the matter: the investments that institutions make to foster proven instructional practices and the kinds of activities, experiences, and outcomes that their students receive as a result” (National, n.d.).  As a result, the instrument known as The College Student Report and the process known as the NSSE were born.

        NSSE does not directly measure student learning. However, NSSE measures areas of perceived high quality and growth areas. NSSE states, “An extensive research literature relates particular classroom activities and specific faculty and peer practices to high quality undergraduate student outcomes ( accessed on June 27, 2016).

        These high impact practices form 10 Engagement Indicators. The Engagement Indicators are Higher-Order Learning, Reflective and Integrative Learning, Learning Strategies, Quantitative Reasoning, Collaborative Learning, Discussions with Diverse Others, Student-Faculty Interactions, Effective Teaching Practices, Quality of Interactions, and Supportive Environment. These indicators provide information for each unique area by summing student survey responses. Colleges and universities may use these scores in various ways that may include tracking scores over time or comparing scores with aspirant or benchmark institutions.

        The university began using the NSSE in 2001 and has administered the assessment every other year in odd years. The last administration was 2015. The university publishes all reports on its website.

Residential Facilities

Residence hall environments have the potential to affect a student’s success (Astin, 1977, 1984; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005; Tinto, 1987). Generally, student residence is impacted by four areas.  The four areas are (a) residence hall students are more likely to persist in college than nonresidential students, (b) residence hall students are more likely to acquire important skills such as establishing a sense of accomplishment, (c) residence hall students are more likely to be involved on campus, and (d) residence hall students obtain higher grade point averages and standardized test scores over non-residential students.

        Retention. Retention to the university is a critical measure of both student and institutional success (Galicki & McEwen, 1989; Herndon, 1984; Thompson, Samiratedu, & Rafter, 1993). Currently, societal expectations provide inquiry into student and institutional measures for success such as retention rates. Herndon (1984) and Thompson et al. (1993) demonstrate the positive influence on residential students’ retention compared to their peers who live off-campus.  Further, Potts and Schultz (2008) found that students living off campus in their first year and having a low high school rank were a significant negative impact on retention. Thus, from early inception to today’s culture of accountability, residence halls have served an important role in university experiences.

        Sense of self. Chickering and Kuper (1971) as well as Pascarella and Terenzini (2005) noted that during college, students’ sense of self develops and expands. Residence hall students are more likely to be involved in co-curricular activities (Astin, 1984; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005).  Having a living and learning environment with blurred boundaries seems to provide multiple benefits.

        Interactions with peers also strongly influenced many aspects of change during college,

including intellectual development and intellectual orientation; political, social, and

religious liberalism; positive academic and social self-concept; interpersonal skills, use of

principled moral reasoning; maturity and personal development; and educational

aspirations and attainment. Additionally, the impact of peer interaction was greatest

when peers challenged beliefs, attitudes, and values, forcing introspection, reflection, and

re-evaluation. (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005, p. 614)

        Grade point averages. Finally, students living on-campus achieve higher grade point averages than their off-campus peers. Kanoy and Bruhn (1996) utilized a living-learning environment while Pascarella et al. (1993) compared on-campus residents with commuter students, ultimately finding that on-campus students have a statistically significant difference in grade point average and they retained at a higher rate.

        Research illustrated that living on campus may offer multiple advantages. On-campus students retain at a higher rate, become involved in their college experience, have a higher grade point average, and develop certain skills better than their off-campus peers develop. The close proximity of peers who have different life experiences allows for diverse conversations that spark reflection and self-evaluation.

Self-Determination Theory and Motivation

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations are components of Self-Determination Theory (SDT). The Self-Determination Theory (SDT) has a foundation in growth tendencies in the psychological constructs of autonomy, competence, and commitment and “is an approach to human motivation and personality that uses empirical methods while employing an organismic metatheory that highlights the importance of human’s evolved inner resources for personality development and behavioral self-regulation” (p. 68).  Each type of motivation has implications for learning.

As Ryan and Deci (2000) found, an individual whose motivation is self-directed demonstrates enthusiasm and interest in the outcome of an activity and has better performance and commitment to the activity. University officials may utilize this knowledge as a guide in determining if all aspects of the university environment (such as: advising, residential, activities, dining) foster conditions to develop intrinsic motivation.

        External motivation is a form of motivation used in many world cultures. There are fines for exceeding speed limits, making payments in an untimely manner, and crossing the street at an inappropriate location. Interestingly, as Ryan and Deci (2000) noted, these external motivations negatively influence intrinsic motivation. The greater the external motivation, the less interest, value, and effort an individual will have for the externally moderated activity.

In a university setting, it is imperative that one fosters intrinsic motivation while moderates external motivation or integrates it into intrinsic motivations. Through their research, Ryan and Deci (2000) found social context critical in facilitating the integration of external motivation into internal motivation. The social context should be comprised of role modeling the desired behaviors and expressing the value placed on the behaviors. Role modeling the desired behaviors increases the individual’s desire for relatedness, thus influencing the motivation to perform the modeled behaviors. If the culture of the university is such that every week students and faculty share coffee while discussing literature or current events, then new students begin to participate in coffee and discussion because they desire to be a member of the university community. When the individual makes this mental connection, the behavior becomes self-authored. Modeling desired behaviors is important to understand because universities have the ability to create environments in which an individual develops competence and autonomy, and has opportunities for appropriate challenge and support. Students may experience alienation and their well-being suffers without the intentional fostering of this context.

        This literature review provides relevant information related to the NSSE, the role living environment holds for institutions of higher education and for students, and the role motivation has when working with individuals. In order to examine perceptions of the NSSE, researchers asked the following research question: How do first-year students report their perceptions of the NSSE assessment tool?


        This study used a qualitative analysis of focus group responses to address the research question. Researchers secured IRB approval to conduct focus groups to understand how students perceived the NSSE in their first year of college. Students at a mid-sized public institution completed the NSSE during their spring semester. After completing the assessment, first-year students participated in focus groups to examine how they perceived the questions in the “diversity” subset of the NSSE. Questions from the NSSE were shown/read to participants, who then reflected upon their perception of the questions. Researchers held eight focus groups in the first-year student residence halls with the number of participants per group ranging from two to 11. Focus groups were 48% male and 52% females. Participants represented majors from all colleges on campus including Computer Science, Agriculture, History, Mathematics, Kinesiology, Psychology, Business Administration, Engineering, and Communication Studies. Seventy-six percent of participants identified as White, 12% as Black, 8% as Hispanic, and 4% did not report race/ethnicity demographics.

The researchers transcribed the focus group content.  To secure identities, researchers assigned pseudonyms to participants. Grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) guided the analysis of transcriptions, leaving interpretation to unfold from the participants’ perceptions. Each researcher used open coding to look for themes in the transcribed focus groups. Intercoder reliability was checked (Neuendorf, 2002) for percentage of agreement. Because themes emerged and researchers did not establish codes prior to analysis, it was not necessary to compute agreement of chance and Cohen’s kappa. The researchers agreed on initial themes. Upon a second analysis, three themes were similar (email, notification, and awareness) and subsequently collapsed into one theme: marketing. The themes led to four larger categories: marketing, NSSE Impact/Clarity, Motivation, and living environment.


How did participants perceive the “diversity block” of NSSE questions? The focus groups revealed a wide perspective (Table 1).

Main themes

Sample comment


“Yea, I know I just got an email recently about…it was all for girls and I can’t remember exact [sic] what the event was”

NSSE Impact/Clarity

   Informal conversations

   What is a discussion?


“It was kind of confusing, I guess the way it was worded, what it was asking, so that was what I thought on it, I didn’t know exactly what it was asking me.”


   Attitude-Behavior Theory


“I think they (the University) do have enough and they promote them pretty well, it’s more of the fact of ignorance of the student that we don’t go and attend them.”

Living Environment




“My RL (Residential Leader) tells me, like she’ll write stuff on her board, outside her room”

While not always clear to the participants, the “block” of diversity-based questions from NSSE spurred reflection, and encouraged action. With this range of responses, researchers examined each theme in more detail.


        The data and coding process led to four broad themes. The four themes are marketing, the NSSE impact or clarity, motivation, and living environment. Marketing addresses the publicity surrounding programs and events related to diversity and or inclusion. The NSSE impact or clarity describes the way the participants felt about and responded to the questions on the instrument itself. The heart of this project revolved around what the participants were believing, assuming, and thinking when answering the questions on the instrument. The third theme addressed motivation or the participants’ determination if programs and events deserved their engagement. The final theme is the role the student’s living environment may  hold for the participants and the overall learning that occurs.


        Whether gathering in the kitchen of their residence hall or hanging around the gazebo on the university grounds, the students gather and talk about classes and life’s happenings. There are official events held on campus, formal classroom engagement, and relaxed or informal gatherings of friends where conversations and discussions happen. Outside of classes, the participants noted they engage in co-curricular activities and events largely because someone asked them to attend. They mentioned invitations from the Residential Leader as a major prompt for attending an event. Further, if one’s friends indicated attendance, the participant stated they are likely to attend. Relationships carry great weight in influencing an individual’s behavior and choices.

        At this particular institution, many faculty and staff feel “students do not read their email.” Participants recalled emails for specific programs and repeatedly mentioned receipt of emails and often the subject line. Thus, while the institutional culture indicates that students do not read their emails, this project found that they are engaging with their emails more than the culture believes. One participant noted, “Yea, I know I just got an email recently about it, it was all for girls and I can’t remember exactly what the event was.”

        When asked about the university’s performance regarding the marketing of programs and events, the participants were generally satisfied. They believed themselves informed about most events and programs on campus through the multiple avenues used to present information such as email, sandwich boards, and word-of-mouth. While one student did remark, “I don’t hear about half of them,” this sentiment was not pervasive. Overall, the participants indicated being satisfied with marketing efforts used by the University to promote programs and services.


Reflection on NSSE itself was a primary theme. The 2015 NSSE asked, “During the current school year, about how often have you had discussions with people from the following groups?” The survey then listed “people of a race or ethnicity other than your own, people from an economic background other than your own, people with religious beliefs other than your own, and people with political views other than your own.” The survey provided a four-point Likert scale including very often, often, sometimes, and never. The participants approached this question from different perspectives. Certain participants indicated engaging in discussions and provided examples of classes such as Anthropology, Sociology, Government, and English. When prompted to think about discussions, the focus groups showed consensus that this question largely addressed formal discussions that were a part of a class. One participant noted, “I think um, depending on who you’re with, and what classes you take there is a lot of room for debate over this stuff.”

Participants did not interpret all questions clearly during the NSSE.  For example, one participant noted, “It was kind of confusing, I guess the way it was worded, what it was asking, so that was what I thought on it, I didn’t know exactly what it was asking me.” Other participants, when read/showed the question from the diversity “block” of questions, asked the facilitators what the question meant, “Are they saying as far as classroom things or like interactive things?” When asked how they interpreted the question during the NSSE survey, participants noted uncertainty, which may affect the results of this particular block of questions.

Informal Conversations

Conversely, other participants thought about informal conversations. These informal conversations seemed to be an outgrowth of typical conversation flow. When prompted as to where discussions happen, one participant said “in the dorm, in the living environment.” Another participant affirmed, “Most because we’re always together, we’re on the same hall and we’re all taking the same classes…plus our Residential Leader is as well so just being around them and being able to be in the same environment and being able to bring things up like that make it easier for conversations to just happen.”

        Another participant stated, “[W]e would all sit outside and that is where it (discussion) usually happened.” Often, the discussions are an outcropping of casual conversations. One student said, “I mean my roommates and I will be sitting around and the conversation just kind of leads to something about economics or race, or whatever. Then just kind of keeps on going.”

        Regardless of perspective, participants realized they might expand their viewpoint. Thus, participants answered the question from primarily a mindset of a formal classroom setting or from an informal, friend group perspective. Throughout the feedback related to discussion, participants recognized their friend group as a major impact on their perspective. One participant noted, “It’s who you are surrounded by at all periods of time.”

What Is A Discussion?

The conversation regarding discussions resulted in a meta-analysis of discussions. Participants appeared quite deliberate in describing a discussion. One participant defined a discussion as “people RESPECTFULLY voicing opinions on the topic and listening to an alternating opinion, you know, soaking it up, if you keep your opinion that’s fine, if it changes your opinion that’s fine, you actually pay attention.” Another participant noted, “A lot of times other people attack other people in discussions, sometimes they don’t agree on that, I think it should be an open policy type thing, I think everyone should be able to voice their own opinion. If people are attacking each other it’s not really a discussion, it becomes an argument.”

        The general desire from the participants was to have an exchange where everyone felt respected and without getting too intense. The participants seem comfortable discussing with their friend group but indicate a desire for listening and respecting others. They seemed to indicate a hesitancy to discuss topics too deeply or too rigorously, due to a fear of someone becoming upset.

Motivation to Attend Events

Participants discussed attending diversity events with distinction between deciding to attend and declining to attend. They frequently noted they attended events such as lectures or programs as a class requirement or because of a friend group. Friends also have a major role in deciding not to attend as well. Multiple participants mentioned that if friends did or did not want to attend a program, that decision swayed the individual’s decision regarding attendance.

Attitude-Behavior Theory

Of course, motivation is a multi-layered, complex enterprise. Participants discussed multiple reasons they chose to engage in programs related to diversity and multiple reasons they chose not to engage. One participant remarked, “When we’re on campus you’re not really thinking about race, or you know what’s going on, you just happy to be on a college campus and you doing you, you know what I’m saying?” While this is a privileged perspective noting a student of dominant culture may not “have” to focus on race, it does show how participants may explore internal motivation. Regarding attitude-behavior theory, Bean and Eaton (2000) noted multiple approaches related to student motivation. Pertaining to Attitude-Behavior Theory, they suggested that beliefs inform attitudes, which inform intentions ultimately leading to behaviors. Thus, a student’s beliefs related to his or her need for particular learning or experiences inform his or her intentions regarding attendance. A student’s beliefs or intentions determine event attendance.


        One participant underscored this by noting, “A lot of the emails we have people don’t check them or they see that they don’t pertain to them and they just swipe away.” This statement brings to light a very ethnocentric perspective. With such an outlook, an individual views others and different cultures based upon their own culture. Thus, a student from a dominant or majority group may perceive no need to attend an event because they believe they are sensitive and or aware. One participant said boldly, “I think they (the University) do have enough and they promote them pretty well, it’s more of the fact of ignorance of the student that we don’t go and attend them.” Another participant said that the campus “is inclusive” so belief may lead to choosing not to attend a diversity event, as there is no identified need.

Living Environment

A major theme for this project is the role of the living environment. The residence hall proved to be a cornerstone for discussions. Participants repeatedly spoke of their residence hall as a place they were comfortable delving into conversations related to diversity. One participant, when asked where most of the discussions occur, set the foundation in noting, “In the dorm, in the living environment.” Further, the participant noted, “Being able to bring things up like that made it easier for the conversations to happen.” Another described, “I would have a lot of discussions with just me and my friends around here (residence hall).”

        When answering the question, “During the current school year, about how often have you had discussions about the following: economic, ethnic, political, religious, etc.” within the NSSE, participants didn’t always consider “discussions” that were informal, though many noted conversations happened that way.


Roommates consistently appeared as influential for all participants. As one stated, “Me and my roommate, we could just be telling a story and he’ll say yea, sometimes like that happened to me and he’ll tell about it.” These comments serve to indicate the importance of the residence hall as an environment where deep conversations take place. One member of the focus group commented, “It is usually the more heartfelt conversations come at night” and other participants laughed and said, “Like 11:59 or midnight, like as soon as it hits 12:00, it gets deep.” Again, it is unclear if participants fully understood these informal, often powerful, moments as responses for their NSSE survey as many noted “discussion” might be restricted to formal classroom spaces when answering the survey.

Programs in the residence hall

The participants expressed that they preferred conversations and discussions in the residence hall because they were accustomed to having events provided in the residence hall. One event they reflected on was in the hall kitchen and was a poverty simulation. To emphasize the world population related to diversity, some sat at the counter island using nice plates and received a hearty meal. Others sat on the floor and received a scoop of rice on a paper plate. This simulation was in September of the fall 2014 semester with the participants still discussing it in April 2015. Another event, which was impressed upon their memories, was a conscientiousness awareness event. Students were able to experience the world from a new perspective. For example, an individual may be physically unable to navigate a building where a concert is or because one makes assumptions about race or ethnicity.


The residence hall serves as a natural environment for the promotion of discussions. Some participants appreciated the proximity of events in the halls and actually noted displeasure when events were outside the hall, at locations such as the student center or other academic building. Others commented on both sides of the distance issue with some complaining that events around campus are “too far away” while still others noted that the “campus is not very big” and walking across it posed no significant challenge. Participants did mention that the beginning of the academic year offered many events within the residence hall but opportunities for engagement dwindled as the year progressed.

        A key component related to the level of activities in the residence hall is the residential leader role. Some participants discussed the fact that their residential leader planned programs for the hall and at times participated in discussion. This role lends itself to being a vital facilitator regarding creating conditions which all residents experience discussions on these important diversity topics. A participant said, “My RL tells me, like she’ll write stuff on her board, outside her room” while another said, “They are pretty good about telling us stuff around campus.” Not only do residential leaders hold a leadership position among their peers, they have the proximity to students to build trust and a safe space for vulnerable discussions to take place. The potential influence this position holds is immense.

 Limitations, Future Study, and Conclusion

        The current study looked at first-year students’ perspectives of the NSSE on the “diversity” block of questions. Researchers conducted focus groups of students who volunteered to participate. Sharing one’s views in front of peers is an iterative experience in any focus group. This could have increased, decreased, or otherwise modified the participants’ willingness to share their thoughts.

        Future studies could examine student perceptions on more than one “block” of NSSE questions. While the participants of the focus groups in this study proportionally represent the university (76% identified as White, 12% as Black, 8% as Hispanic, and 4% did not report race/ethnicity demographics), it would be beneficial if focus groups included a more racially diverse cross-section of participants for their interpretation of the diversity and other blocks of questions. Larger institutions and institutions from other parts of the country can add depth to the NSSE qualitative exploration. Additionally, an analysis for seniors concluding their entire collegiate experience, not just first-year students, may provide a better exploration of identified campus activities or may lend additional weight to how students perceive and interpret the NSSE questions. Clearly, participant perspectives of the “diversity block” of NSSE questions showed a wide range of interpretation of the questions from first-year college students.


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Programs and Services to Support Single Mothers In Graduating with a

Postsecondary Education: A Delphi Study

Dawnetta Smith

University of Texas at Arlington


Being a single mother can be difficult, especially when a single mother has little or no

income. Nationally, over 43% of households headed by single women with children live in

poverty and over 56.7% of poor children lived with single mothers. (Hess et al., 2015; National

Women’s Law Center, 2015). In Texas, 41.8% of female-headed households live in poverty

(National Women’s Law Center, 2015). With these startling statistics, most federal and state

programs only provide temporary assistance and do not help single mothers escape poverty long-

term (Single Mother Guide, 2016).

Nationally, an average weekly wage for women with a high school diploma is $578,

while women with an associate’s degree earn $661 weekly, and women with a bachelor’s degree

or higher average $1049 weekly (United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics,

2015). However, roughly 18% of low-income single mothers do not have a high school diploma

(Covert, 2014). Therefore, many of these women rely on government assistance to care for

themselves and their children. Low-income single mothers have a desire to earn a living for their

families, but a lack of credentials forces them to work low-wage jobs (DeBell, Yi, & Hartman,

1997). It is known that higher education can provide those in poverty an escape, this includes

low-income single mothers (Graham & Bassett, 2011).

Institutions of higher education are serving an increasing number of single mothers today,

with 43% of parenting students being single mothers (Gault, Reichlin, Reynolds, & Froehner,

2014). However, just over 27% of single mothers complete a degree or certificate within six

years of enrollment (U.S. Department of Education, 2010). With this growing population, it is

important that higher education institutions examine the multiple barriers low-income single

mothers face and collaboratively strive to help alleviate some of those barriers (Tiamiyu &

Mitchell, 2001).

There is limited research on effective programs and services that support low-income

single mothers through postsecondary education attainment. Higher education institutions are

continually working to retain and graduate more students. With the average completion rate of

29% for 2-year institutions and 59% for 4-year institutions many students enter college and leave

with little more than debt (National Center for Education Statistics, 2015; Texas Women’s

Foundation, 2014). The problem in the current study is the lack or limited availability of

programs and services on college and university campuses for low-income single mothers to

successfully complete a higher education. As higher education institutions continue to strive to

increase retention and graduation rates, it is important that single mothers are considered in the

programs and services that are offered at institutions (Graham & Bassett, 2012). Improvements

in programs and services for single mothers can help these mothers continue and complete a

postsecondary education (Graham & Bassett, 2012).

In looking to increase the understanding and research around single mothers pursuing a

higher education, the current study utilized a Delphi method to gather experts’ opinions about

programs and services that are needed to support single mothers pursuing a degree in higher

education. The current study invited 50 experts, professionals who have worked with single

mothers pursuing a higher education for at least 24 months and single mothers who are currently

pursuing or who recently completed a credential in higher education in the last 24 months, to

provide their opinion about the current study topic. This was accomplished through a five-round

Delphi study. The final results of the current study provided a ranking order for the categories of

programs and services and also a top five selection of programs and services needed by single

mothers to complete a degree in higher education. This information was utilized to build an

evaluative scorecard for higher education institutions to review their programs and services for

single mothers attending their campuses. Table 1, displays the final results of the Delphi Study.

Table 1

The need for research of this caliber is essential as by the year 2020, 65% of all jobs in

the U.S. will require some form of postsecondary education (Carnevale, Smith, & Strohl, 2013).

Current research shows that for many students having access to tutoring, mentoring, academic

and career advising, TRIO programs as well as other services helps to ensure a holistic learning

environment (Hayes-Nelson, 2009). While these programs are important, many of the

participants in the current study felt that these programs were no different than services most

other students need. The current study found that low-income single mothers need more specific

services such as, class times available for working single mothers and child-friendly on campus

study spaces. The current study also expanded beyond just social services for the mothers and

Dr. Smith included academic, family supports, and institutional programs and services that are needed by single mothers.

In conclusion, the current study was timely due to the focus of previous President Barak

Obama and Congress to increase graduation rates among college students (The White House,

n.d.). It is important that single mothers be considered in this as they comprise 43% of the

parenting student population on higher education campuses (Gualt, et al., 2014). Moreover, the

current study is important to ensure that low-income single mothers obtain the credentials of a

degree or certification that can help low-income single mothers earn a living wage (DeBell, Yi,

& Hartman, 1997). Not only will an increase in wages help low-income single mothers and their

families escape poverty, but also earning a credential will help the single mothers have higher

self-esteem, be stronger leaders in their families and communities, influence their children’s

educational goals, and positively change the dynamic of the family and demonstrate to their

children that with hard work and dedication anything is possible (Graham & Bassett, 2011;

McMahon, 2009; Miller, Gault, & Thorman, 2011; Tiamiyu & Mitchell, 2001). The results of the

study can be used to increase retention rates of single mothers while also providing information

for increasing retention rates for all students, especially disadvantaged students.


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feminization of poverty?. Urban Review, 33(1), 47-56.

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earnings in 2014. Retrieved from

/womens-earnings/archive/ highlights-of-womens-earnings-in-2014.pdf

A Microsystem of Support for Students Who Experienced

Foster Care

Nerissa LeBlanc Gillum

Texas Woman's University

Lorna Durrant

Texas Woman's University

Monica Mendez-Grant

Texas Woman's University

Precious Wells

Lamar University

Ahmyl-Mai Jaber

Texas Woman's University


Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model was used to learn about students’ challenges and supports while in college. Themes of tending to my personal/family issues, navigating my academic life, and managing my time emerged for challenges. Depending on self and depending on others resulted for supports. Based upon this study’s results, the microsystem’s elements of activity, role, and interpersonal relation were used to discuss mentoring, enhancing educational behaviors, and focusing on basic needs as recommendations to support these students during their college journey..

Keywords: foster care, higher education, student success

A Microsystem of Support for Students Who Experienced Foster Care

College life may be a challenging transition for many students. This can be a reality for students who experienced foster care as evidenced by high drop-out rates in college (Day, Dworsky, Fogarty, & Damashek, 2011; Unrau, Font, & Rawls, 2012) and low college graduation rates (Courtney et al., 2011; Pecora et al., 2003; Pecora et al., 2005). Various challenges may occur during their college journey that may lead to issues with retention and graduation. One factor may be inadequate preparation for college-level work (Dworsky & Perez, 2010). Challenges with academics have been evidenced during elementary and secondary schooling (Barrat & Berliner, 2013). They may have to take remedial-level college courses (Courtney et al., 2011) and may lack strong time management and study skills (Hernandez & Naccarato, 2010). Inability to fund college expenses has been reported as a common reason for dropping out of post-secondary programs and as a common barrier to continuing education (Courtney et al., 2011; Hernandez & Naccarato, 2010). Housing can be a critical component in particular for students who attend community colleges as many of these colleges may not have on-campus housing (Dworsky & Perez, 2010; Rassen, Cooper, & Mery, 2010). Securing reasonably priced housing within the vicinity of the campus can be an issue (Dworsky & Perez, 2010). If students select affordable housing that is a distance from the campus, then they may encounter transportation difficulties. Another piece of the housing puzzle is year-round housing as some students may not have places to reside during school intermissions (Casey Family Programs, 2010). Mental health issues may be negatively linked to educational outcomes (Dworsky & Perez; Salazar, 2012). Having a history of a mental health diagnoses was related to a higher likelihood of college disengagement (“taking time off from an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program or starting a program but not completing it;” Salazar, 2012; p. 147). Students’ family circumstances may also help to explain college challenges. Students may experience guilt because they have funds (e.g., scholarships) to go to college while their families may be financially struggling (Hernandez & Naccarato, 2010). This familial financial pressure may lead students to give some of their funds to their families or decide to drop out of college so they can work to financially care for their families. Some students may also be parents. Parenting responsibilities was a reason for no longer being enrolled in school (“became a parent/caring for children”) and a barrier to continuing education (“need to care for child[ren]”) (Courtney et al., 2011).

Bioecological Model

We engaged in this research by using Urie Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model to guide our understanding of these students and of a college environment that could be conducive to their development. The bioecological model contains nested systems: microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem in which the developing person is at the center (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006). For this study, we focused on the developing persons (students who experienced foster care), microsystem (college), and ecological transitions (two academic semesters). The developing person is a dynamic being with characteristics and experiences that influence one’s environment (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). The microsystem which is the closest environment has three basic elements: activity (purposeful continuing behavior), role (expected behavior), and interpersonal relation (interaction between individuals in which one individual focuses on another individual or partakes in an activity with another individual) that are experienced by the developing person. An ecological transition is a change in role and/or setting (Bronfenbrenner, 1979).

Research Goals

A goal of this study was to learn about these developing persons’ challenges and supports in their microsystem during their ecological transitions. We developed two research questions:

  1. What challenges have you experienced in being successful this semester?
  2. What supports have helped you to be successful during this semester?

Via the lens of the microsystem’s elements of activity, role, and interpersonal relation, we used the results to suggest recommendations of how a college could be a supportive microsystem.


During two consecutive semesters (semester 1 [S1], semester 2 [S2]), we recruited students who were participating in a campus support program at a university in the northern part of Texas. We integrated our study’s five open-ended questions into a program evaluation questionnaire. The questionnaire was administered to students towards the end of these two semesters during their in-person program meetings. For the program evaluation, no demographic information was collected. These students were part of a specific campus program composed of a small number of potential participants and not collecting demographic data could help to protect their anonymity and to help increase their participation and honest responses (Babbie, 2010). In essence, we were promoting a safer space for student expression. Therefore, we do not have demographic data about our participants. During S1, nine of the 16 students participated, and 10 of the 12 students participated in S2. The same students may have participated during both data collection times. We collected data at two time points so we could learn about similarities and differences in their reported experiences.

To address Research Question 1, we had two open-ended questions (e.g., During this

semester, what have been your weaknesses in performing well in your current courses). For

Research Question 2, three open-ended questions were presented (e.g., During this semester, who and/or what has motivated you to continue your coursework during this semester? How did this motivation occur?). We, the first two authors, participated in multiple steps to examine the data via qualitative content analysis which is an approach to examining text; specifically for describing and explaining the meanings of persons’ written words (Marshall & Rossman, 2011), such as written responses to open-ended questions of a questionnaire (Buntine & Read, 2007; Stonelake-French et al., 2018). Part of our organization process was to group participants’ responses according to their respective open-ended questions and then eventually to each of the two research questions. Individually, we investigated the students’ responses to comprehensively learn of their unique meanings. We summarized meanings of their responses by applying descriptive words (Saldana, 2013). This coding led us to seeking commonalities among the students’ responses. We grouped similar responses and examined these data sets.  This structuring led to another level of synthesizing the data and developing and refining our five themes. We dialogued multiple times about our individual examinations and respective results (Creswell, 2013). Our combined approaches of individually and collaboratively examining the students’ responses assisted in enhancing our interpretation of their challenges and supports. Two of our co-authors worked with individuals who experienced foster care and pursued a college education. To enhance trustworthiness of our results, these two co-authors reviewed the results section and confirmed that the results were consistent with their professional experiences.


What I Am Experiencing As a Developing Person: My Challenges

        For both S1 and S2, themes of tending to my personal/family issues, navigating my academic life, and managing my time were revealed.

Tending to my personal/family issues. One recurrent dimension was finances. One student expressed experiencing financial instability (S1); whereas, another student reported having stress about financial situations (S1). Divorce was indicated, and basic necessities of food and housing were evidenced in responses. A facet of mental health was identified, “My major obstacle is/was being depressed” (S1). During S2, a student reported being pregnant as a challenge in successfully finishing the semester, and another student shared “I had a health scare spring semester which has made it difficult to work.”

Navigating my academic life. A focus was on the process of completing academic work and the struggles experienced. During S1, one student conceptualized schoolwork as being stressful, and another student expressed that studying was a weakness. Comprehending academic practice was also revealed. In both semesters, specific courses (e.g., English) were identified as areas of weaknesses in performing well.  

 Managing my time. During both semesters, students admitted personal responsibility in navigating their time. During S1, one student informed that a weakness was “Not staying on top of my school work.” Along with scheduling issues, procrastination was a difficulty. Another thought was that lack of time was a major obstacle in completing the semester. During S2, a couple of students shared that a weakness in their performing well was not being focused; for example, “Focusing on school while attending to personal problems.”

What I Am Experiencing As a Developing Person: My Supports

For S1 and S2 data, depending on self and depending on others were the two themes revealed. Students reported their contributions to their academic success. Also, they identified social supports who were instrumental to them.

Depending on self. During S1 and S2, a common sub-theme was self-motivation. A

difference in sub-theme was noted between the two semesters in that during S1, academics management was yielded; whereas, perseverance was shown in S2. Students expressed their desires to be successful; for example to rise above negative circumstances by “not be[ing] a statistic” (S1). One student envisioned a positive future and shared “The fact that I know that I am on the path to greatness” (S1). Along with expressing challenges with their academics in S1, they did highlight their accomplishments that are housed within the sub-theme of academics management. Their comments had an essence of diligence. Students expressed that they made changes in accomplishing their school work. One student shared “I have grown into a mature and independent lady. I have been studying more than I did in high school. In History, Math, and psychology I have a B average, which is an achievement to me.” (S1). One student looked towards the future of attending graduate school, “wanting to get into grad school, so I have to preform well, or my chances are lower.” (S1). During S2, perseverance was evident via responses such as “I stayed in class no matter what. I always attempt to study. I never gave up.”

Depending on others. Multiple students realized that their journey was not a solo effort. During S1 and S2, social support was shown. During S1, financial resources were emphasized in contrast to S2 in which academic resources were revealed. Socially, students identified the Program, family, friends/peers, and counseling. The Program graduate assistant was mentioned multiple times; for example: “[Program graduate assistant] inspired me when I was seriously considering quitting school.” (S1); “[Program graduate assistant] has been very encouraging & very easy to talk to. She is always willing to lend an ear” (S1); “[Program graduate assistant] has realy motivated me in a since everytime I felt like giving up she pushed me to do better for myself and continue doing it until I finished” (S2). For counseling as a resource, a student shared “Counseling because it helps me with problems I face and it has gotten me on the right track.” (S2). During S1, a couple of students focused on an essential college expense—books. Basic needs were also indicated such as support with food. For S2, academic support was shown; specifically, assistance with mathematics; “I used the mathlab, it was beneficial during the fall semester b/c everyone knew what/how to help.”        

Discussion and Implications

        As developing persons, students experienced challenges of personal/family issues, academic life, and/or time management. For support, depending on self included self-motivation, academics management, and perseverance. Social, financial, and academic resources were revealed for depending on others. Common themes were revealed across their ecological transitions. Differences were within supports for both themes of depending on self and depending on others.

A limitation of our study was not collecting student demographic data. Demographics such as age, employment status, and family household structure may provide another level of understanding these students’ experiences. Demographic data can be useful in developing culturally-enhanced policies and programs. Students responded to a questionnaire via writing. Even though the students revealed much in their responses, select responses were general. A limitation was that this type of data collection did not allow opportunity for follow-up questions to obtain additional information from students regarding their experiences.

Based upon our study’s results, we used the microsystem’s elements of activity, role, and interpersonal relation to discuss mentoring, enhancing their educational behaviors, and focusing on basic needs as strategies to support students. Mentoring is a relational activity that operates as a joint activity dyad. Characteristics of this dyad are reciprocity, balance of power, and affective relation (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). Mentoring can give students an opportunity to develop a stable, consistent support system. Enhancing their educational behaviors is about empowering students to fulfill their roles as students. Focusing on basic needs involves activities that help students to manage their human needs so they can tend to their academic lives. Activity, role, and interpersonal relation can intersect (Bronfenbrenner, 1979) as evidenced by mentoring. Designated leadership in the college environment is essential (Casey Family Programs, 2010) for these strategies to be established and sustained. This leader is responsible for identifying these students, guiding them during their college journey, and collaborating with others who can provide services to the students (Casey Family Programs, 2010).


        Students identified how the program graduate assistant helped them; for example, inspired, encouraged, and listened. These are characteristics of a mentor. A reality of persons who experienced foster care is that their support system may not be sufficiently knowledgeable about college life and/or champions them to earn a college degree (Rios & Rocco, 2014). Therefore, mentoring within the college environment can be an integral part of their journey. Mentors can regularly meet with them to discuss how college life is progressing, guide mentees to develop academic goals, and inform them of campus resources to help navigate their circumstances. Mentors can be faculty, staff, or fellow students who would serve as consistent figures who are invested in supporting students’ educational success (Crisp & Cruz, 2009).

Enhancing their educational behaviors

        Dimensions of navigating academic life and managing time were revealed as students’ challenges. Specifically, students reported issues about studying, coursework completion, and time use. For students who have difficulties in accomplishing their schoolwork, a variety of activities can be put into place to assist them in enhancing their educational behaviors. Students can be guided to participate in campus academic activities such as tutoring, academic coaching, time management, and study skills (Dworsky & Perez, 2010). Sessions with academic advisors and/or mentors could be another opportunity to encourage students’ positive behaviors (Eller, Lev, & Feurer, 2014). Simple yet an important action is having dialogues about their accomplishments such as completing assignments in a timely manner and earning passing grades. In essence, these activities are to guide students to embrace ownership in fulfilling their roles in being successful within their college microsystem.

Focusing on basic needs

        Students’ comments reflected basic needs of finances, housing, and health. Because

attending college can be conceptualized as a luxury in that a college degree is not needed to get a job; some students may drop out if these types of basic needs are not being met (Dworsky & Perez, 2010; Hernandez & Naccarato, 2010). Students may examine the immediate cost-benefit of college and deem that the costs outweigh the benefits; therefore, their roles as students may be dropped so they can tend to their basic needs. To guide students financially, designated staff members can be educated about grants, scholarships, and waivers relevant to students who experienced foster care (Casey Family Programs, 2010; Rassen, Cooper, & Mery, 2010). Students may even benefit from money management skills sessions. Another goal can be to help students to secure affordable and safe housing whether on or off campus (Casey Family Programs, 2010). Students reported specific health situations such as stress, pregnancy, and depression. Students can be encouraged to participate in regular wellness visits and in counseling sessions. Counseling may have to be normalized as some students may have negative perceptions of engaging in therapeutic help (Dworsky & Perez, 2010).


This study took a step in contributing knowledge about students as developing persons by learning about their challenges and supports while enrolled in college and by using the microsystem’s elements of activity, role, and interpersonal relation to suggest ways to develop a supportive college environment. A next step can be to analyze the microsystem’s elements in relation to the students’ educational outcomes (e.g., grade point average, retention, graduation). Also, data can be obtained from mentors and/or individuals who work closely with these students to provide additional perspectives of factors relevant to these students’ educational outcomes.


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An Exploration of the Relationship between Student Retention and Self-Efficacy

Rachel Cinquepalmi

Tarleton State University

        Within the expansion of globalization, there have been numerous theories seeking to explore potential improvement strategies for university student retention. Findings and research have discovered that a culmination of non-academic and academic factors contribute to an increased retention rate within universities. Self-efficacy is merely one of these factors, which plays a substantial role in a student’s coping ability, thus increasing self-confidence. This article seeks to explore the foundations of what could serve as an institutional model for retention based on non-academic factors, academic factors, and self-efficacy.

Keywords: retention, self-efficacy, coping


Globalization has attracted individuals to postsecondary education, as it is necessary to remain economically competitive. Yet, a need remains in order to enhance retention rates through the development of tailored and complex plans and programs. Educational policy leaders such as Veronica Lotkowski, Steven Robbins, and Richard Noeth have explored the need for retentions programs, which address both non-academic and academic factors. Lotkowski, Robbins, & Noeth (2004) have indicated in their studies that the non-academic factor of academic-related skills, academic self-confidence, academic goals, institutional commitment, social support, certain contextual influences, and social involvement all had a positive relationship to retention. In addition to the possession of necessary skills, the improvement of one’s self-efficacy produces a higher rate of desired effects, thus positively influencing a student’s success.

In Cindy Veenstra’s article reviewing a strategy for improving freshman college retention, it was found that education leaders such as Vincent Tinto have indicated that we are in dire need for an institutional model for helping students succeed. According to the article, what is needed and what is not yet available is a model of institutional action that provides guidelines for the development of effective policies and programs that institutions can reasonably employ to enhance the persistence of all their students (Veenstra, 2009, p.6). While college students emerge into the university setting with varying personality traits, backgrounds, and goals, the institutional action may call for additional student support activities which include both non-academic and academic measures.

The transition into the university setting has been widely studied for many years as orientations, freshman seminars, and additional extracurricular programs have been implemented in order to improve the introductory experience. The thought of reinforcing student involvement outside of the classroom was a notion driven by student affairs professionals who sought to provide their universities with retention activities and programs. Tinto (2007) described this early work on retention as the “age of involvement” which rushed into service a range of programs to enrich the freshman year experience ranging from expanded and extended orientation to a variety of extracurricular programs. As a result, these infant programs lacked complexity as they failed to consider the experience of students as well as the students varying in gender, race, ethnicity, income, and orientation.

As critical as these non-academic factors are, the importance of academic student support services must not be ignored. Veenstra (2009) expressed the need for additional resources including tutoring, mentoring, and advising in combination with faculty involvement. Literature supports the need for intensive assistance in addition to an ongoing program that occurs early in the first semester.

As this culmination of non-academic and academic factors collide, there remains one factor which has been proven to influence one’s success. DeWitz, Woolsey, and Walsh (2009) expressed the struggle to incorporate the opportunity, the means, and the motivation. Self-efficacy was the one common denominator found in successful individuals as it is notably defined as the levels of an individual’s self-confidence. The correlations between self-efficacy, goal orientation, and an individual’s coping skills all relate to increased levels of success.

In order for a student to persist through adversity and persevere to achieving his or her college degree, he or she must actively feel a sense of meaning, become determined to set goals, and connect to the institution and to those around them. While high school GPA is a predictor of college success, several studies have shown student motivation to be a strong predictor of persistence (DeWitz, et al., 2009). Personal efficacy expectations are expected to impact behavior, how much effort will be applied to attain an outcome, and the level of persistence devoted to overcoming hindrances (Devonport & Lane, 2006, p. 127).

Developing a ‘sense of belonging’ is critical to the success of college students, particularly for the retention of students who are considered to be at risk of non-completion (O’Keeffe, 2013, p. 4). The development of an individual’s feelings of purpose in life certainly correlate to the value found in self-efficacy. Researchers studying students, who considered leaving college, found that many of these individuals described dissatisfaction with their college social life and experiences (DeWitz, et al., 2009). While the interrelationship between purpose of life and self-efficacy exists, the parallel between self-efficacy and coping may be even more profound.  

One strategy seeking to enhance self-efficacy is to consider the way in which students cope with stressful encounters (Devonport & Lane, 2006). There are many ways in which students may choose to cope, and responses to stress may include venting, positive reframing, denial, etc. Several studies lend support to the idea of creating interventions based on self-efficacy theory to positively influence behaviors that improve or augment students’ subjective sense of purpose in life (DeWitz, et al., 2009, p. 11). With this complexity of student retention comes the range of models, including sociological and psychological factors in nature that have been proposed to the task of explaining student attrition (Tinto, 2007).

As higher education models for retention are created, student affairs professionals and faculty alike must seek to create a welcoming environment where care, warmth and acceptance are promoted, in order to achieve improved student retention (O’Keefe, 2013). Furthermore, coping strategies such as cognitive and secondary appraisal should be highly encouraged among those who influence students. Just as self-efficacy has been linked with success, active coping methods have been linked with higher self-efficacy rates among individuals.

Within the realms of academic factors regarding faculty and staff development, it is increasingly clear that faculty actions, especially in the classroom, are critical to institutional efforts to increase student retention (Tinto, 2007, pg 7). While we unfortunately do not know the specific ways in which varying development programs impact student attrition, we do know the significance surrounding faculty teaching methods. Additional support including supplementary resources and professional development opportunities may be included in a model of institutional action.

In moving toward success with this issue, it is apparent that student retention is a highly sought after topic in higher education. The increased number of students attaining undergraduate and graduate degrees has flourished, and with this advantage comes a matter of contention. The need for a multi-layered model for student retention is illusive, but not discovered. Academic factors including tutoring, mentoring, and advising must not be ignored, while non-academic factors including counseling or facilitating welcoming environments inside and out of the classroom are equally as vital. Finally, opportunities presenting coping strategies must be made apparent and accessible to all students within the model and plan. Additional research in the areas of self-efficacy beliefs and associations could provide valuable information for those seeking to improve the lives of students in higher education (DeWitz, et al., 2009).



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Campus Activism: Racial Tensions, Political Choices, and Poor Decision Making

Kalyn Cavazos

Texas A&M University


Racial tensions, political choices, and poor decision making is aiding the resurgence of campus activism on major college campuses across the United States.  Student activism is forcing campuses to face their past and force new policies for administrators to consider to foster inclusivity and safe-places for students from all backgrounds at various different types of institutions.  Devaluation and non-recognition of certain ethnicities, students with different types of sexual orientation, and embedded racism is not going unnoticed.  Differing views on campus activism highlights how this could develop into an issue that could threaten normal daily life on a college campus or has the possibility to provide unique learning opportunities tied to student governance and democratic engagement.  Regardless of campus views, educators should promote the social responsibility of assisting students navigate complex, societal issues for the future and beyond.

Campus Activism:  Then & Now

        Campus activism has been in place at higher education institutions dating back to the Colonial Period.  The various topics have morphed into a myriad of issues decade-to-decade and include topics on:  civil rights, war, improving conditions for the working class, racism, LGTBQIA advocacy, etc.  The societal problems continue to circle the latest political realm and hot topics, yet diversity and racism continue to be a consistent trend in the history of campus activism and is deeply rooted into the socialization cycle of oppression.  Tactics such as sit-ins, marches, and peaceful protests remain steady tactics activists incorporate when trying to communicate their stance.  

        “More than 50 years ago, university leaders and the general public expressed concerns that the campus activism of the free speech, civil rights, and Vietnam eras posed a threat to campus and public safety” (Barnhardt, 2014).  The same supposed threat plagues administrators in present-day and the number of protests continues to rise as we advance in this current decade.  Racism and oppression among different communities (i.e. religious groups, LGBTQIA community, lower socioeconomic status individuals, etc.) continues to remain rooted in policies and practices on campuses.  The demands from current activists is not unrealistic to understand at this current point in time.  For example, consider the Black Lives Matter movement, “Black activists protesting across America’s colleges and universities have relied on these recently uncovered histories, and this process of self-reflection to further articular their concerns and demands” (Anderson & Span, 2016).  Making sure students, staff, faculty, and administrators are all on the same page is necessary to establish consistency and an avenue for students to utilize their voices on college campuses across the globe.  

Response to Campus Activism

        Administrators and campus communities need to be more cognizant and involved in understanding why campus activism is taking place, rather than trying to shut down or “fix” the problem.  Dr. Kevin Kruger, President of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators stated in an interview, “I think that campuses should stop being so afraid of activism…I’m a strong believer that student activism is what we want students to do” (Lipka, 2015).  As educators, we need to provide new tools and access to resources for students to utilize when organizing campus protests or free speech events.  

        Activism promotes active, engaged citizens to be involved in democracy and civic ideals within their respective communities.  Students need to be able to explore different tactics of communication, creativity, and develop skillful timing for the delivery of their message to campus communities.  With adequate resources, more involvement from administrators, and a better understanding of social awareness – students will be able to produce successful communication and practices for whatever they are trying to advocate for in the future.  Campus activism can be used to teach students necessary developmental skills that will aid in their holistic development and student affairs administrators would be able to advance civic learning opportunities and democratic engagement among student leaders.

Future of Campus Activism

        Participation in campus activism empowers students to develop a sense of community and provides context for exploration of personal growth while attending college.  Civic learning opportunities serve as a high impact practice that assists in student learning and retention efforts at different types of institutions in higher education.  Student affairs professionals need to promote an active, encouraging role when communicating with students about campus activism and expressing their views.  Administrators need to establish a consistent pulse of what is going on at their campuses and understand the context college students are facing today.  

        Through this lens, higher education administrators, faculty, and staff have the opportunity to foster unique experiences that will foster student growth allow students to have an even deeper understanding on their stance of whatever campus, societal, or global issue they’re trying to tackle.  “Studies show that partnering with faculty and staff creates deeper and broader learning outcomes for students during their collegiate experience” (Kezar & Maxey, 2014).  Helping students better articulate what they want and being able to effectively communicate to executive administrators and higher serves as an impactful resource to assisting college students navigate bureaucratic levels and learning curves.


        Campus activism is not going anywhere and will remain prevalent on college campuses for years to come.  The question of how administrators choose to approach these controversial topics will have the opportunity to provide empowering learning opportunities or negatively impact students’ collegiate experiences.  Limiting this type of participation would not provide additional learning opportunities and would be detrimental to college students’ interpersonal development across the board.  Serious review, engaged advisors, and resources need to be provided to college students in efforts to enhance democratic engagement, civic learning, and personal leadership development.  




Anderson, J. & Span, C. (2016).  History of education in the news the legacy of slavery, racism,

and contemporary black activism on campus.  History of Education Quarterly, (56)4, 646-656. doi:  10.1111/hoeq.12214

Barnhardt, C.  (2014).  Campus-based organizing:  Tactical repertoires of contemporary student

movements.  New Directions for Higher Education, 2014(167), 73-85. doi:  


Kezar, A. & Maxey, D. (2014).  Collective action on campus toward student development and

democratic engagement.  New Direction for Higher Education, 2014(167), 31-41.  doi:  


Lipka, S.  (2015).  Student activism and the social media ‘trap.’ Chronicle of Higher Education.  

        Retrieved from 


The Impact Social Media has on College Student’s Emotions towards Social Justice  

Ahmet Aksoy

Texas Tech University


Emotions play a huge role in impacting the decisions and actions college students make in their daily life. In The Seven Vectors: An Overview, Chickering (2014) list managing emotions as one of the essential seven vectors within student development.  The invention of social media has altered college students’ way of life allowing information to instantaneously present imagery, videos, and content that can emotionally impact and affect their decision-making. Impacting college student’s emotions through social media can be seen in the significant usage in verbiage, gestures, video, and images in events such as United States presidential elections, the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, and the Arab spring,. University and college personnel administrators must be mindful and knowledgeable of social media trends and the effects they are having on their students on campus in order to effectively support them.

Keywords: Social Media, Social Justice, College Students

Statement of the Problem

With the increase of college students’ usage of social media, students are not only becoming more informed on social justice or current events but also emotionally invested in them. Communication spread around the world through the means of media – ‘mediate not only what we know but, on that basis, also much of what we feel’ (Greco and Stenner, 2008). The strength of social media is it ability to mediate how students are being informed and how they feel. Along with mediating how students are informed and how they are feeling, social media provides an outlet in which students can mobilize in a short amount of time for causes they feel passionate about. This can be seen in the post 2016 presidential election were events occurred on Texas State University and the University of Texas at Austin where mass student populations mobilized to express their emotions and feelings towards the 2016 United States Presidential election results (Watkins & Blanch, 2016). Being observant of these social media trends, allows college personnel administrators to ensure the safety and support of students on their campuses during events such as these.

Addressing the Problem

According to the Pew Research Center Study, a total of 90% of young adults use social media with around 82% of young adults on Facebook and 55% of this crowd on Instagram (Modo Labs Team, 2016). With the numbers continuing to rise among the youth, the increase in how social media will emotionally impact them will only rise. Colleges must be aware of social justice and current event trends through social media and how their students on campus are affected by them in order to effectively support them. During the 2016 Presidential Election, tensions rose amongst college students between the Republican Candidate, Donald Trump, and the Democrat candidate, Hillary Clinton.  The election rose debates amongst students on campus and even the creation of student organizations. The student organization, Students For Trump, started on Campbell University in North Carolina and by September 2016 had grown to over 250 chapters nationwide (Chason, 2016). The creation of these student organizations provide an avenue of support for those emotionally impacted. Encouraging students to join or create organization that support their emotions and identity provides them a sense of safety and support on their college campus.  Through campus programming, campus resources, and encouraging involvement, students can be provided an avenue in which they can be supported through what has emotionally impacted them on social media.  

Potential Implications

The materials on social justice and current events that can be found on social media can ignite forms of anger, fear, hurt, anxiety, or other forms of emotions amongst students on a college campus. These emotions can be ignited based on how students identify themselves. During college, students begin establishing a form of identity on their campus. “Development of identity involves:

(1) Comfort with body and appearance.

(2) Comfort with gender and sexual orientation.

(3) Sense of self in a social, historical, and cultural context.

(4) Clarification of self-concept through roles and life-style.

(5) Sense of self in response to feedback from valued others.

(6) Self-acceptance and self-esteem

 (7) Personal stability and integration. ” (Chickering, 2004).  

When a student has established their identity, they can be emotionally impacted if they feel their identity has been attacked on social media. Chickering says students must learn appropriate channels for releasing these irritations before they explode (Chickering, 2004).


The decision and actions of college students are heavily navigated and influenced by their emotions. These emotions are being targeted through the engagement of content, images, and videos seen throughout social media. This outlet, social media, shows its effectiveness as a tool in shaping students opinion through their emotions. It also shows that students can be and are emotionally impacted on social justice and current events through their social media accounts. Along with being emotionally impacted, we see that students on college campuses are taking further steps and are seeking out venues on campus for support. In order to meet students’ needs, colleges need to be aware and active to encourage spaces, events, organization, or services that ensure the safety of their students. Ensuring this safety and inclusive environment, will result in the overall success and development of their students on campus.


Chason, R. (2016). National Students for Trump Effort has NC Roots. 2016. 

Chickering, A. (2004). The Seven Vectors: An Overview. 

Greco, M., & Stenner, P. (2008). Emotions: A Social Science Reader. New York: Routledge.

Modo Labs Team (2016). Social Media Use Among College Students and Teens – What’s In, What’s Out and Why. Modo Labs. 

Watkins, M., & Blanchard B. (2016) Tensions Erupt at Texas Universities, Public Schools After Trump's Win. The Texas Tribune. 

Book Review: Generation Z Goes to College

Ashlee Noblin

Tarleton State University

Shonda Sears

Tarleton State University

First-time in college students of today are an ever-changing population known as Generation Z, who were born between 1995 and 2010. The “digital natives” have been exposed to the internet, smart phones, and tablets their entire lives and they thrive in a technology-driven world. Their personal interactions primarily take place on a virtual platform, where they spend hours daily on various social media sites. The world they have grown up in has cultivated a need for social change and has driven them to take action. The book, Generation Z Goes to College, written by Corey Seemiller and Meghan Grace takes a closer look at this generation.

The book begins with a brief background information on the authors providing insight on their perspective. They emphasize while generalizations can be made about generations they are not completely reflective of each individual. Throughout the first two chapters the authors introduce the readers to Generation Z. In Chapter 1 Seemiller and Grace take an in depth look into the characteristics of Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. The chapter explains how these prior generations impacted the common personality characteristics and motivators associated with Generation Z. Chapter 2 focuses on the “common events and contextual factors” (p. 38) that have influenced Generation Z’s beliefs and perspectives.

The next set of chapters covers topics concerning communication, technology, and relationships. The authors begin Chapter 3 with an examination of the different communication channels most and least popular among Generation Z. They probe deeper into specific social media sites throughout Chapter 4 including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest and explore what each is used for and current trends. They point out that while many interactions occur through technology they still value face-to-face interactions. After examining how Generation Z communicates and uses technology, in Chapter 5 Seemiller and Grace consider the affect these trends have on Generation Z’s ability to create and maintain personal relationships. They focus on relationships associated with friends, family, and romance. Whereas technology might be seen as a hindrance for some, Generation Z views it as an opportunity to positively influence relationships.

Early in the book the authors explained a prime motivator for Generation Z is their concern for the world around them. Chapter 6 and 7 discuss the current state of the world and the impact it has on this generation’s desire for social change. Chapter 6 looks at their views on topics relating to the importance of education, finding employment they are passionate about, as well as human rights, racial equality, ever present violence, and political dysfunction. Chapter 7 takes these views and explores how Generation Z is putting its passions and ideals into action to make a change. These actions include taking on leadership roles in their community, creating businesses with social missions, and raising money for social causes. Seemiller and Grace find that this generation seems to have a strong desire to be actively engaged in the community in order to make the world a better place.

Chapters 8 delves into Generation Z’s leadership styles and who they look to as role models. Role models for this generation are typically individuals like parents, teachers, and coaches as opposed to bosses, religious leaders, and political leaders. Through a survey conducted by Seemiller and Grace, members of Generation Z self-identified as not having one specific leadership style but rather the ability to adapt to the environment around them. However, the dominant leadership style was found to be the “Doing style” of leadership, which plays a big role in their educational experience. Chapter 9 discusses how institutions can maximize Generation Z’s learning experience by integrating technology, understanding how they interact with professors and peers, and creating an ideal learning environment.

The authors conclude their research on Generation Z in Chapter 10. While there are similarities with previous generations they point out the need to understand the differences so that we can connect with them more effectively. They present six strategies to better engage these students in higher education, including relational, operational, instructional, programmatic, developmental, and technological.

For the next 10 years Generation Z will comprise the majority of the higher education population. This book notes they are a dynamic and complex generation. The information provided therein can help us create more effective relationships, communication strategies, and learning environments.  Still, while many common characteristics have emerged through the research conducted by Seemiller and Grace, it should be stressed that not all individuals in this cohort are the same.


Seemiller, C., & Grace, M. (2016). Generation z goes to college. Retrieved from

Student Affairs on Campus Journal - Volume 4                                                                                          

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