Date of Award

1-1-2012

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Department

Educational Leadership and Policies

Sub-Department

Higher Education and Student Affairs

First Advisor

Julie Rotholz

Abstract

In an increasingly globalized world, students graduating from college are expected to be able to communicate and work with people who are different from themselves. The skills needed to compete in this global workforce are not easily learned in a class or seminar, but obtained through experience and interactions with diversity. Involvement in multicultural student organizations or identity-based groups affords students the opportunity to explore their identity and gain experience in understanding diversity. With the growing demand for multiculturally competent graduates increasing, this study seeks to understand students' experiences in multicultural student organizations at the University of South Carolina.

The participants of this study consisted of eight members of the undergraduate university community who belonged to a student organization housed under the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs. The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs provides support and leadership for diversity initiatives across campus. Through a series of one time interviews with the eight participants the research sought to understand how the participants defined diversity, what value they assigned to their experience, and the effects students felt their involvement had on their understanding of themselves.

Findings from this study demonstrated that students' defined diversity in three increasingly complex ways. First, their appreciation for their involvement in an identity-based organization was grounded in feelings of safety and increased confidence as a result of membership which allowed for more openness to the cognitive dissonance that comes with experiences with diversity. Their perceived understanding of themselves showed that participants' developed both intellectually and ethically.

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