Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Psychology & Higher Education

First Committee Member

Mario C. Martinez

Second Committee Member

Vicki Rosser

Third Committee Member

Edwin Gantt

Fourth Committee Member

Cynthia Carruthers

Number of Pages



The field of student affairs is properly cautious about indoctrination. Indoctrination, after all, clearly contradicts the field's ethical statements and standards. These cautions have led student affairs researchers to investigate explicit values in the field to prevent explicit forms of indoctrination. However, recent investigations of implicit values in the discipline of psychology have revealed a potential new source of indoctrination not currently studied in student affairs. Specifically, psychological researchers have identified a system of implicit values called liberal individualism that has been found to be pervasive throughout the psychological discipline. Given the widely acknowledged link between student affairs and psychology, it raises the question of whether a similar kind of indoctrination is occurring in student affairs. This study is an initial investigation into whether the system of values identified as dominant in psychology, liberal individualism, currently exists within the field of student affairs.

A hermeneutic analysis was conducted on the content of cornerstone textbooks to establish if such textbooks promote implicit values aligned with the ideology of liberal individualism. Hermeneutics was used because the implicit values involved were meanings and hermeneutics has been developed as a type of qualitative investigation into meanings. Part of the hermeneutic method that was used for this study was to maximize the openness or objectivity of the investigator to either seeing or not seeing liberal individualism. Consequently, a contrasting set of implicit values called relationality was also investigated in these texts.

The findings of this investigation provided evidence for a fairly pervasive influence of liberal individualism throughout these texts and a very limited influence of relationality. In this sense, these findings evidenced much more of a general, as opposed to a narrow, adoption of liberal individualism in the explanations and theories of the texts. This widespread individualist influence also extended to each of the eight features of liberal individualism: atomism, separation from context, artificial relationships, liberation from authority, value-freeness, happiness, instrumentalism, and autonomy. These features appeared to embody many common-sense notions of the field, such as how research is critiqued, how students develop, and how relationships thrive. The findings of this initial study could foster a whole series of productive investigations to help prevent implicit forms of indoctrination in student affairs.


Hermeneutics; Implicit; Individualism; Indoctrination; Student affairs; Student affairs services – Psychological aspects; Student affairs services – Study and teaching; Textbook bias; Values


Education | Higher Education Administration

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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