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Exploring the Effects of Socio-Cultural Issues Discussions and Social Perspective-Taking on College Students’ Civic Identity

2013 Jon C. Dalton Institute on College Student Values Dissertation of the Year Award Recipient

Important Question Explored: How can we best structure our various programs, co-curricular experiences, and courses to strengthen college students’ civic identity?

Matthew-Johnson-203x300_0.jpegMatthew Johnson, Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Leadership at Central Michigan University

Before coming to CMU, Matt Johnson served as a visiting professor of student affairs/higher education at Miami University. He completed his dissertation at the University of Maryland in 2012 in the college student personnel program. His research interests center on leadership, civic engagement, and diversity.


Fostering the development of college students’ civic identity is a vaunted outcome in higher education, but there has been little research on its development. This study examines the development of civic identity, using 45,271 cases from the 2009 Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership to examine the unique role of socio-cultural issues discussions and social perspective-taking. Civic identity development is a complex process that explores the knowledge, attitudes, values, and actions associated with acting upon one’s sense of civic responsibility. Racial differences in the development of civic identity are also explored. This presentation will focus on implications for practice and research through dialogue with attendees.

Extension of Session Experience: Those who see their work—either directly or indirectly—as preparing students to be active and engaged members of society will gain valuable insight into how students develop their civic identities. After examining the study of 45,271 student responses disaggregated by race, participants will have an opportunity to engage in dialogue about the results and implications of this study. Pedagogical implications for community service, service-learning, leadership courses and programs, intergroup dialogues, study abroad, and other educational experiences aimed at strengthening students’ civic identity will be discussed. A one-page summary of the study will be distributed.