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How Are Leadership Education and Diverse Citizenship Related? Critical Conversations#15

Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice
November 6, 2018 Krista Soria Analyst

Our JCC Focus Author for this quarter (November 2018) is Krista Soria, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.  Her article (co-authored with Christine VeLure Roholt) “Leadership Experiences: Educating for Diverse Citizenship” (November 2018, Vol. 19, No. 4) examined the association between first-year students’ participation in cocurricular leadership experiences and their diverse citizenship, the extent to which students are open to diversity, value diversity, and engage in efforts to improve their communities.

Below, she responds to questions posed by JCC co-editor Jon Dalton:

1. What is meant by the term "diverse citizenship?"

In our article, we employed the definition of diverse citizenship developed by Schreiner (2010): “an openness and valuing of difference in others and active involvement with others to make the world a better place” (p. 8). Diverse citizenship is a critical social element embedded in college students’ overall sense of thriving--their intellectual, social, and psychological engagement in higher education (Schreiner, 2010).

2. How does "diverse citizenship" differ from "social agency" which also seems to refer to the valuing of differences in others?

Students who are thriving in diverse citizenship view interpersonal differences as opportunities to learn from others and possess a strong personal responsibility to make a positive difference in the world. While social agency is conceptualized as students’ beliefs that it is important to take action to create societal improvements--including working for social justice (Nelson Laird, 2005)--diverse citizenship is broader in that it also means possessing an openness to diversity, valuing diverse viewpoints, feeling a sense of self-efficacy in making positive community differences, and spending time making a positive difference in other people’s lives (Schreiner, 2010).

3. Is active engagement in leadership roles in college a necessary ingredient in effective leadership education?

In our study, we discovered that first-year college students who were involved in on-campus leadership experiences had significantly greater diverse citizenship than first-year students who did not participate in leadership experiences. We also discovered that students who were invested in their academics, felt a strong sense of confidence in their abilities to be academically successful, and perceived a strong sense of community on campus also possessed greater diverse citizenship. While we did not investigate the effects of other co-curricular programs, the results of our study lend support to decades of higher education scholarship that suggests the power of both academic and social dimensions in supporting students’ developmental outcomes (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). We believe that students should not shy away from engaging deeply in their collegiate experiences as first-year students--and, that means engaging in leadership opportunities to improve their campuses and surrounding communities.

4. Why is it important to study the leadership experiences of first year students rather than later in the college years?

It is important to research the collegiate experiences in which college students are engaging, such as leadership opportunities, because researchers who investigate first-year students’ experiences can better isolate the potential effects of those programs on students’ outcomes (which can get subsumed by the effectiveness of other programs in students’ later years of enrollment). In other words, first-year students are like “clean slates” and, after accounting for the experiences, characteristics, and predispositions they bring with them to college, it is easier for researchers to isolate the unique contributions of programs to their outcomes.

Nelson Laird, T. F. (2005). College students’ experiences with diversity and their effects on academic self-confidence, social agency, and disposition toward critical thinking. Research in Higher Education, 46(4), 365-387.

Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (2005). How college affects students: Vol. 2. A third decade of research. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Schreiner, L. A. (2010). Thriving in community. About Campus, 15(4), 2-11.