Presenter: Courtney H. Thornton
Advisor(s): Audrey J. Jaeger, Ph.D.
Author(s): Courtney H. Thornton
Graduate Program: Higher Education Administration

Title: Civic Responsibility and Research Universities: Ideology, Culture and Action

Abstract: Civic responsibility is an important ideal of higher education that is rarely considered through a cultural and theoretical lens.  Swidler's (1986) framework linking ideology, culture and action provided a means of studying civic responsibility at two research universities, the University of Virginia (UVA) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC).  The purposes of the study were (a) to understand dominant institutional beliefs about civic responsibility at two research universities, and (b) to understand how their institutional cultures contribute to unique institutional approaches to civic responsibility, specifically in terms of student involvement and development.  This ethnographic study examined campus ideologies and cultural forms that addressed five dimensions of civic responsibility: (a) knowledge and support of democratic values, systems and processes, (b) desire to act beneficially in community and for its members, (c) use of knowledge and skills for societal benefit, (d) appreciation for and interest in those unlike self, and (e) personal accountability.  Data collection involved interviews, field observations and document analysis at both campuses. Student questionnaires and site summary reviewers were used to ensure trustworthiness of the findings.  The ideologies, cultures and actions specific to the two institutions aligned with Swidler's framework and yielded two unique institutional approaches to civic responsibility, namely the "test bed" and "role model" approaches.  These two approaches hold implications in several areas of both student affairs and organization studies, including student citizenship development and institutional accountability.