Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Higher Education

First Advisor's Name

Benjamin Baez

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Valerie Patterson

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Maria Lovett

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Norma Goonen

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


Higher education

Date of Defense



Studies explain that participating in community service enhances relationships, positively contributes to one’s purpose, and provides life satisfaction with a specific focus on retention and degree attainment for those enrolled in college (Corporation for National and Community Service, 2007). The simultaneous increase of Black women attending colleges as universities increase outreach to drive community engagement does not align with the shift in the research of civic engagement that excludes the activity of young Black people and is counterintuitive to the historical underpinnings of political and educational transformations in the United States (e.g., Civil Rights Movement) (Hewins-Maroney, 2008).

The purpose of this study is to gain a better understanding of why current Black undergraduate women volunteer in their communities and how they perceive these volunteer experiences reflect on understanding themselves as Black women. Qualitative inquiry was used to explore the similarities and differences of how Black women make meaning of their experiences and understand themselves.

The 11 Black undergraduate women who participated revealed eight themes that contributed to their reason for serving their communities. Overwhelmingly, the participants felt a drive, usually before college, that motivated them to serve their communities to impact themselves and others in transformative ways. Their work in the community was not without hardships or barriers, but overcoming those barriers were also motivating to the participants to recognize their privilege and continue to serve. The university’s role is something the participants were critical about as they had little connection to the university related to volunteering except for the marketing of service opportunities but contributed that to their peers.

As the institutionalization of service-learning and volunteerism in higher education has become a strategy to increase retention, the findings from the present study add to the limited research of volunteer engagement of diverse populations. The participants shared their criticism of volunteering within the university as well as the community broadly, and they confirm that intentional outreach and educational spaces should be dedicated to ensuring that the community work of students of all backgrounds is valued and that these students be given opportunities to engage in meaningful volunteer work.





Rights Statement

Rights Statement

In Copyright. URI:
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).