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How a university civically engages college students a comparative ethnography of Cuban Americans and non-Hispanic Whites /

by Gonzalez, Roger Geertz.

Abstract (Summary)
The focus of this ethnographic study is to: 1) identify how and why Florida International University (FIU) civically engages Cuban-American and non-Hispanic Whites and 2) identify successful and non-successful civic engagement practices at FIU. According to democratic theorists, civic engagement is tantamount to a functioning democracy. According to higher education researchers, there are short- and long-term benefits associated with college student civic engagement. Short-term benefits range from higher gpa’s to critical thinking. Long-term benefits include graduate school attendance, promoting racial understanding, and interest in the social good among others. However, literature on minority student civic engagement is sparse. The political science literature states that differences between Hispanic and non-Hispanic Whites when it comes to voting, party affiliation, charity donations, etc., is considerable. Moreover, most of the college student civic engagement literature is survey based and does not take into account the effects of civic engagement programming on campuses or the process of how students become civically engaged in the first place. Thus, in this study, I interviewed and observed 14 Cuban American and 15 non-Hispanic White students at FIU, a predominantly Hispanic, urban university in Miami, Florida. This study took place in the Fall of 2002 and was finished in May of 2003 for a total of two semesters or 8 months. I also compared and contrasted FIU’s civic engagement practices to three different national studies on successful college civic engagement practices. When compared to these national studies, FIU’s civic engagement practices were disparate and concentrated in a handful of colleges and offices. Even though FIU’s civic engagement programming did not measure up to successful civic engagement practices at other colleges and universities in the U.S., both Cuban American and Non-Hispanic White students relied on student established networks when iv it came to civic engagement. Additionally, there were no differences between both of these distinct ethnic groups when it came to the types of civic engagement in which they participated at FIU. A possible explanation for this is “reverse acculturation,” or the process whereby Non- Hispanic Whites in Miami, Florida begin to adopt Cuban American cultural customs and behaviors. v
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School:Pennsylvania State University

School Location:USA - Pennsylvania

Source Type:Master's Thesis

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