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Exploring Students' Engagement With and Construction of Community

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Sense of Community is related to numerous positive outcomes for university students. The purpose of this study was to explore sense of community amongst low income students who received a

Sense of Community is related to numerous positive outcomes for university students. The purpose of this study was to explore sense of community amongst low income students who received a last dollar scholarship. This study also sought to understand how students define community and how they interact with communities from their past (before university), present (since they started college), and how they envision their future community involvement after graduation. Through purposive sampling, six low income Arizona State University students were selected based on similar characteristics. The scholarship that they belong to selects them based on financial need, integrity, and prolonged commitment to community service. Using a qualitative narrative inquiry, I interviewed participants about their understanding and experiences with communities. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim for analysis. Based on the analysis, I identified three major themes: community as construction, community as nonlinear, and community as intersectional. Drawing from participants' definitions and experiences of community, I argue that community is a construction. In other words, individuals create their own constructions of community, and their actions vary based on that construction. Participants also experience their communities intersectionally, that is individual's experience their communities as coexisting and through multiple community perspectives, rather than as a single stand-alone entity. Finally, community does not exist as part of a linear time paradigm. Instead community is experienced in terms of relevance to the individual in creating meaning from that community. In addition to the above themes, I also examined participant perspectives of ASU as a community. Based on this research, I recommend that a platform be provided for students to engage in a dialogue about their understanding of community and interactions with communities. Moreover, I suggest researchers utilize intersectionality, constructionism, and non-linear time to frame future research on sense of community. This research is significant because it helps us understand student engagement, and offers a framework through which universities can provide students an opportunity to better understand their own sense of community.

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Date Created
  • 2017-05