The literature on student development cautions that social responsibility attitudes may stagnate or decline as students proceed through college. Given the importance of students’ future professional obligations to society, identifying ways to reverse this trend is crucial. In turn, an important aim of this study, situated at a large public university, is to evaluate the prospects of community engagement as a strategy to foster professional social responsibility development. The study uses longitudinal results from an instrument known as the Generalized Professional Responsibility Assessment (GPRA) to assess personal and professional social responsibility attitudes. The study’s sample includes 128 students who completed a survey both in 2017, when entering college, and in 2019, when near the midpoint of college. Findings indicate that social responsibility attitudes remain stagnant, and that students over that time period attach more importance to salary as compared to helping people when considering job priorities. Yet, results reveal that increased community engagement predicts growth in social responsibility attitudes, even when controlling for students’ pre-college social responsibility attitudes and demographic characteristics. Further, a novel contribution of this study is a focus on two sub-categories of community engagement: discipline-based and peer-based. Discipline-based community engagement appears to foster professional aspects of social responsibility, while community engagement experiences tied to peer interaction appear to exert greater impacts for non-White students. An observation derived from the study is that community engagement, particularly when it connects to a student’s discipline or draws on peer influences, could be an effective strategy to promote social responsibility development.
Social responsibility, community engagement, undergraduate education, professional ethics, longitudinal study
Date of this Version
Daniel S. Schiff, Jeonghyun Lee, Jason Borenstein & Ellen Zegura (2023) The impact of community engagement on undergraduate social responsibility attitudes, Studies in Higher Education, DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2023.2260414