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Preparing Students for a Diverse, Deliberative Democracy: College Diversity Experiences and Informed Citizenship After College


by Nida Denson, Nicholas A. Bowman & Julie J. Park — 2017

Background/Context: The role of race in the university continues to be a contentious issue. Proponents of college diversity often cite the importance of fostering a diverse and deliberative democratic society, but the link between student experiences and postcollege citizenship has received limited attention.

Purpose/Objective: This study explores the extent to which two types of college diversity experiences (cross-racial interaction and curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement) predict aspects of informed citizenship associated with supporting a deliberative democracy six years after graduation (i.e., following the news, discussion of racial issues, and importance of keeping up to date with politics).

Participants: The dataset for this study came from UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute. We utilized the 1994–1998–2004 cohort of students/alumni, which included a postcollege survey administered six years after graduation. The total sample consisted of 8,634 alumni from 229 institutions.

Research Design: This study utilized secondary data analysis of the 1994–1998–2004 CIRP dataset.

Data Collection and Analysis: Path analysis was particularly useful for this study to examine the direct and indirect effects of the college diversity experiences on senior-year and longer-term outcomes.

Results: College diversity experiences have direct effects on postcollege discussions of racial issues, which suggests that these forms of engagement may have long-lasting effects on college graduates. Moreover, curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement also has positive, indirect effects on keeping up to date with politics, news consumption, and discussing racial issues well after graduation. The pattern of findings differed when analyzed separately by racial/ethnic group (i.e., Whites/Caucasians, Asian Americans, and underrepresented students of color).

Conclusions/Recommendations: This study adds to the existing knowledge base by making a key contribution to the limited research on the long-term benefits of diversity experiences as well as the dimensions of higher education that inform active citizenship in a deliberative democracy. This study examined the complex relationships—both direct and indirect effects—associated with these college diversity experiences and outcomes after college and how these relationships vary by racial/ethnic group. The current findings point to the particular importance of maximizing opportunities for cross-racial interaction and curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement for all students regardless of their race/ethnicity.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 119 Number 8, 2017, p. 1-41
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 21939, Date Accessed: 11/24/2017 10:53:44 PM

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About the Author
  • Nida Denson
    Western Sydney University
    E-mail Author
    NIDA DENSON is a senior research fellow in the School of Social Sciences and Psychology at Western Sydney University. Her research interests include diversity and diversity-related initiatives in education, racism, educational contexts and campus climates, and faculty work-life balance. Her recent work has been published in Educational Researcher, Journal of Higher Education, and Research in Higher Education.
  • Nicholas Bowman
    University of Iowa
    E-mail Author
    NICHOLAS A. BOWMAN is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Policy and Leadership Studies at the University of Iowa and the director of the Center for Research on Undergraduate Education. His research interests include college diversity, college student success, quantitative methodological issues, and perceptions of student and institutional quality. He is an author of the third volume of How College Affects Students (2016).
  • Julie Park
    University of Maryland, College Park
    E-mail Author
    JULIE J. PARK is assistant professor of education (Student Affairs, Department of Counseling, Higher Education, Special Education) at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her research addresses race, diversity, and equity in higher education. She is the author of When Diversity Drops: Race, Religion, and Affirmative Action in Higher Education (2013), an examination of how universities are affected by bans on affirmative action. A research advisory board member for the National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education, her work has been published in numerous academic journals, as well as The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.
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