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A University Collaboration to Prepare College Students For Participation in a Diverse Democracy in the U.S . Sylvia Hurtado, Mark Engberg, and Luis Ponjuan University of Michigan. European Association for Institutional Research Limerick, Ireland August 24-27, 2003. Presentation Outline .

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A University Collaboration to Prepare College Students For Participation in a Diverse Democracy in the U.S .

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A University Collaboration to Prepare

College Students For Participation

in a Diverse Democracy in the U.S.

Sylvia Hurtado, Mark Engberg, and Luis Ponjuan

University of Michigan

European Association for Institutional Research

Limerick, Ireland

August 24-27, 2003

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Presentation Outline

  • Project overview

  • Project findings:

    • Qualitative Study

    • Longitudinal Study

    • Classroom-based-Study

    • Institutional Study

  • Summary

  • Discussion

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Project Goals

  • To learn how colleges are creating diverse learning environments

  • To explore how institutions are preparing students for participation in a diverse democracy

  • To discover how students are learning from diverse peers

  • To understand and share how different campuses achieve goals for cognitive, social, and democratic outcomes

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Theory Linking Diversity and Learning in College

  • Encountering the new and unfamiliar causes us to abandon routines and think actively

  • Disequilibrium when one encounters perspectives that depart from one’s own embedded worldview

  • Learning and social development occurs when interacting with others who hold different perspectives

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Project Outcomes

  • Cognitive Development

    • Complex thinking skills

    • Reflective Judgment

    • Critical thinking dispositions

  • Social Cognitive Development

    • Perspective-taking skills

    • Political awareness

  • Democratic Skill Development

    • View that democracy thrives on difference

    • Constructive conflict and negotiation

    • Willingness to take action for social justice

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Arizona State University

Norfolk State University

University of California

University of Maryland

University of Massachusetts

University of Michigan

University of Minnesota

University of New Mexico

University of Washington

University of Vermont

Participating Institutions

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Research Activities

  • Student focus groups

  • Longitudinal student survey

  • Focused classroom-based studies

  • National survey of institutions

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Student Focus Groups

  • Student focus groups on each campus

    • Racial/ethnic majority student group(s)

    • Largest minority group(s)

    • Students engaged in diversity and civic initiatives

    • Specific ethnic groups unique to each campus & geographic region

  • Student experiences with diverse peers

    • In what contexts do diverse interactions occur?

    • What/how have they learned from diverse peers?

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Learning Through Diverse Interactions

  • Socio-historical/cultural knowledge

  • Perspective-taking/open-mindedness

  • Self-awareness/self-reflection

  • Collaboration and communication skills

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Contexts of Interactions with Diverse Peers

Curricular Contexts

  • Classes focusing on diversity

  • Small classes

  • Intergroup dialogue class

    Co-curricular Contexts

  • Cultural centers

  • Living/learning communities

  • Informal social contexts

  • Community service activities

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Longitudinal Survey of College Students

  • Survey students entering college in Fall 2000

  • Follow-up at end of second year of college

  • Survey designed to tap into:

    • Student beliefs and attitudes

    • Student thinking and interaction

    • Student engagement

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Democratic Outcomes

Background Characteristics

Ability to See Multiple Perspectives

Pre-college/College Environment

Conflict Enhances Democracy



Importance of Social Action Engagement



Influence of Pre-college and College Variables on Democratic Outcomes

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Entering females are more likely to report values and beliefs consistent with outcomes

Pre-college engagement produced the largest change in variance

Interaction with diverse peers was significant

Frequency and quality of interactions with diverse peers were positive across models

Co-curricular involvement in diversity related events

Involvement in curricular activities (diversity readings and intergroup dialogue)

Participation in post 9/11 activities

Longitudinal Trends Across Models


College Impact

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Focused Classroom-based Study

  • Study of Three One-Semester Courses

    • 2 Diversity Courses

      • Education and Women’s Studies

    • 1 Management Course

  • Instruments

    • Student Thinking and Interacting Survey (STIS)

    • California Critical Thinking and Dispositions Index (CCTDI)

    • Reasoning About Critical Issues (RCI)

    • Defining Issues Test (DIT)

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Beginning of Term



Acad. Self-Conf

Invl w/ Frat/Sor (–)

Invl w/ Political Activities

Pos. Qual. Interaction

Neg. Qual. Interaction (–)

End of Term


Diversity Course

Pos. Qual. of Interaction

Predictors of Social Action Engagement

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Institutional Survey: Defining the Engaged Campus

  • U.S. survey of chief academic officers

  • What is an “engaged” campus?

    • Institutions have a unique relationship with the public: Autonomous from the public yet responsible for developing future civic leaders and citizens

    • A current movement in which universities are reexamining their civic mission and developing partnerships with their surrounding communities

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Goals of the Institutional Study:

  • To define the dimensions of civically engaged campuses

  • To identify the organizational characteristics that predict university-community partnerships and institutional spending on public service

  • To add to discussions of how organizational factors and social contexts work in tandem to shape the civic work of institutions

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Institutional Category

Public Institutions***(-)

Doctoral Institutions***

Masters Institutions**

Institutional Characteristics

Enrollment reflects area demographics***

Institutional Commitment

Core Leadership Support for Civic Engagement ***

Institutional Prestige Priority**

Institutional Civic Engagement Priority***

Contextual Demographics

Percentage Racial/Ethnic Diversity** (-)

Percentage Family Poverty Level***

Level of Community Partnerships

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Institutional Category

Public Institutions*** (-)

Civic Engagement Policies and Structures **

Institutional Characteristics

HBCU Classification ***

Level of Funding for Public Services Activities

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  • The various studies here confirm that students acquire a range of cognitive and democratic skills in interaction with diverse peers

  • Campuses that want to further both their educational and civic mission can do so by helping students negotiate differences in background and perspective

  • This requires leadership, a vision of goals for undergraduate education, and structures and policies that promote diversity and community partnerships

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For More Information

  • Diverse Democracy Project

    University of Michigan

    610 E. University, 514 SEB

    Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1259

  • Phone: 734.647.7439

  • E-mail: [email protected]

  • Website:

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