Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
First Committee Member
Number of Pages
Many American colleges were established in "religious enclaves," regions dominated by somewhat homogeneous religious cultures that were formed when cobelievers experienced socially inhospitable conditions and removed themselves from the culturally diverse mainstream and gathered into more homogeneous cultural strongholds. Through modernization and urbanization, many former religious enclaves have evolved into pluralistic social settings; however, one large enclave remains. In Utah, students at public colleges and universities experience a cultural environment where the LDS (Mormon) religion has overwhelming demographic dominance (77 percent of Utah's population in 2000, Grammich, 2004, p. 20). This dissertation explores the influence of the enclave milieu on the lived experience and academic performance of college students at a publicly funded Utah college where many Mormon students feel that they belong to an entitled majority, and many religiously diverse students feel they are part of a beleaguered minority. The dissertation describes the processes through which students and faculty identify one another's religious affiliation and negotiate with the predominant value system; The dissertation employs three methodological components to describe the influence of the religious enclave on students' performance and academic experience. First, a quantitative survey of 285 students gathers descriptive information about students' religious participation and intrinsic religiosity. Using regression analysis techniques, the study shows that religious affiliation influences academic performance as measured by cumulative GPA, with Mormon students achieving higher grades. Second, the author uses Masland's (1985) paradigm to analyze religious elements in the college's campus and culture. This analysis shows a consistent pattern of religious influence on campus symbols, rituals, and crisis narratives. Third, the author reports results of in-depth qualitative interviews with twelve students, including Mormon students and students with varied religious beliefs and affiliations, and students with high and low levels of religiosity. These interviews reveal students' methods of engaging the campus religious culture and illustrate Mormon students' sense of entitlement and diverse students' sense of alienation. Finally, using concepts from identity theory (Mael & Ashforth, 2001; Brewer, 1999), the dissertation suggests that in religious enclaves homogeneity pushes the religious dimension of identity to the fore, where it dominates all other dimensions of identity.
Academic; Academic Experiences; College; College Students; Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints; Enclave; Experiences; Performance; Public; Religious; Religious Enclave; Religious Enclave Students; Utah; Mormons
Education, Higher; Educational sociology; Religion
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
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Peterson, Joe, "Public college students' academic experiences and performance in Utah's religious enclave" (2006). UNLV Retrospective Theses & Dissertations. 2664.