Award Date

5-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership

Department

Educational Leadership

First Committee Member

Robert Ackerman, Chair

Second Committee Member

Gerald Kops

Third Committee Member

Vicki Rosser

Graduate Faculty Representative

LeAnn Putney

Number of Pages

201

Abstract

This study explored the influence of campus legends, traditions, and symbols on the development of place attachment in students at Southern Utah University. An examination of organizational theory, including universities as cultures, student development theory, alumni participation, and place attachment revealed no cross-disciplinary research into how place attachment to a university campus may be influenced by intentional attempts to instill a sense of collective identity through the stories and rituals that occur on campus, hence the need to address this void. Unlike many organizations, colleges have a vested interest in maintaining a connection with students beyond the point of separation.

The student experience relies greatly on the student's involvement with the campus itself and research has shown a positive correlation between engagement and attachment (Pike & Kuh, 2005). This study suggests that engagement goes beyond student involvement in activities and academics and seeks to explore how involvement facilitated through campus legends, traditions, and symbols can create an element of place attachment that plays a significant role in student engagement. It is critical for colleges to create a bond with students that will encourage persistence to graduation and beyond, thereby serving as a catalyst for the advancement of the institution in the future.

A qualitative embedded single case study was used to pursue this research. Participants were selected using purposeful sampling through data provided by the institution, followed by a snowballing technique. They were interviewed using a semi-structured format. Questions were open-ended. Notes were taken throughout the interview process to record contextual cues such as gestures, inflections, and facial expressions.

Data were analyzed through a content analysis of the interview transcriptions and historical documents. Manifest and latent data were considered when analyzing the data, which was coded to reveal the major and minor themes that resulted in the findings.

The most striking observation in comparing involved students to students who were not involved was that there were no discernible differences between the two groups. Each group reported similar levels of attachment, and the importance of the various legends, traditions, and symbols was generally consistent.

In summary, the results of this study show that campus legends, traditions, and symbols influence students' sense of place attachment by creating another level of involvement. By being included in these stories and events, students felt they were a part of something and that their own stories interact with the story of the institution and those of fellow students sharing in the experience. At a time of economic uncertainty, intentionally implementing legends, traditions, and symbols to create an additional layer of attachment may encourage behaviors that eventually benefit the institution, such as retention, referrals, advocacy, donation, and philanthropic activity.

Keywords

College campuses; College students; Place attachment; Southern Utah University; Universities and colleges – History; Universities and colleges – Legends; Utah – Cedar City

Disciplines

Adult and Continuing Education and Teaching | Education | Educational Psychology | Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education

Language

English