Civic engagement, community college, civic education, citizenship education


Social scientists claim young United States (U.S.) citizens have become disengaged in civic life which jeopardizes democracy (White et al., 2007; CIRCLE & Carnegie, 2003, p.8). As a nation, the U.S. has failed to teach students the skills, knowledge, and abilities necessary for democratic life (White et l., 2007). Social scientists claim young U.S. citizens have become disengaged in civic life since the 1980s (Colby, 2007; CIRCLE & Carnegie, 2003, p.4). Compared to past generations, young citizens in the United States are less engaged in political life and lack an understanding of what it means to be an active and engaged citizen (Colby, 2007; White et al., 2007; CIRCLE & Carnegie, 2003, p.4). The idea of engaged citizenship has become narrowly defined as the simple act of voting, limiting the possibilities of citizens in improving society through community involvement (White et al., 2007). However, social scientists and social science educators have witnessed an increase in volunteerism of young U.S. citizens since about 2000. Along with this increase in volunteerism, other empirical evidence has painted a more positive picture of young Americans’ civic engagement (Zukin et al., 2006). While researchers admit that young U.S. citizens are less politically engaged, young citizens demonstrate an interest in civic engagement (e.g., volunteering and participating in social campaigns) (Zukin et al., 2006). Historically, kindergarten through twelfth-grade (K-12) social-studies education has responded, through a civic-focused curriculum, to the needs of the United States. The nation’s colleges and universities have also traditionally focused on the education of the country’s future civic leaders, paying particular attention to teaching citizenship for the common good while iv promoting civic duty and responsibility. In comparison, little attention has been focused on the civic education of the community college student. The primary focus of community colleges has been to stimulate local economies and provide training for workforce development. In addition to workforce development, community colleges have provided access to under-prepared students who are interested in completing a four-year degree at a university, where civic leadership has been integrated into the curriculum. This research study followed a qualitative phenomenological approach that investigated the attitudes and perceptions of community college students and their civic and political engagement. The researcher collected data pertaining to civic engagement from three sources: open-ended qualitative questionnaires, student focus-groups, and a drawing activity completed by students. This research study was conducted in a large urban community college located in the southeastern region of the United States. Wilson Community College is a pseudonym used to conceal the identity of the college that was used in this research study


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Graduation Date





Russell, William B.


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Education and Human Performance

Degree Program

Education; Social Science Education








Release Date

August 2012

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Included in

Education Commons