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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Ximena Zuñiga

Subject Categories

Curriculum and Instruction | Higher Education | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This study explores how college students' experiences with co-curricular social justice advocacy activities supports capacity-building for progressive, democratic, civic engagement. Given the increasing and widening of economic inequality in the U.S. (Hernandez Kent & Ricketts, 2020), exploring how co-curricular experiences in higher education settings can support students to gain capacities for progressive, democratic, civic engagement. While there is a significant amount of scholarship on how diversity education and service-learning contribute to college students' civic engagement, the literature on student involvement in campus activism on progressive, democratic, civic engagement is sparse (Kezar & Maxey, 2014) Using a mixed methods approach, this study explores the learning experiences of undergraduate students involved in a student organization—Center for Education Policy and Advocacy—that uses a multi-year curriculum to build capacities to prepare and mobilize students to challenge issues of economic inequality. This study consisted of two phases, an online survey to gather background information about the students and their experiences and a one-hour follow-up semi-structured interview. Two significant findings emerged from the study: First, in this learning context, supporting students to gain capacity for progressive, democratic, civic engagement is accomplished through a comprehensive multi-year curriculum structure that is of quality, is expansive, and centers a peer-led active learning critical pedagogy. Second, progressive, democratic, active learning pedagogy that supports the development of knowledge/awareness and skill capacities through continuous learning and engagement with social justice issues, in real time, holds promise for effective civic preparation for a robust democracy. Thus, higher education has the potential to provide college students with learning opportunities that build capacities and fosterdispositions necessary to advance progressive change within our democracy.