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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The effects of alternative spring break on the color-blind racial attitudes of undergraduate college students
by Johnson, Jennifer J., Ph.D., Colorado State University, 2015, 202; 3746115
Abstract (Summary)

Many Americans cite the election of Barack Obama in 2008, the country’s first non-White President, as proof of the arrival of the United States as a post-racial nation (Harlow, 2008). Despite this, according to an Associated Press Poll in 2012, racist attitudes in the United States have worsened since 2008 among American adults age 18 and older. Recent events, such as the killing of Black teenager Michael Brown in Fergusson, Missouri by a White police officer in August 2014, the death of Eric Garner, a Black man, at the hands of a White New York City police officer in July 2014, and the subsequent demonstrations and riots following grand jury decisions not to indict the officers reinforce the notion that racial issues are alive and well in the United States today. Service-learning experiences, including alternative spring break, are an especially relevant venue for exploring race and racial attitudes as students often engage in service across racial differences and study systems of oppression.

The purpose of this mixed-method, explanatory sequential study was to describe the effect of alternative spring break on color-blind racial attitudes of undergraduate students at four institutions of higher education in the United States. The overarching research questions of the project are as follows: (a) What is the effect of alternative spring break participation on undergraduate students’ color-blind racial attitudes as measured by the Color-Blind Racial Attitudes Scale (CoBRAS)?; (b) What factors influence the color-blind racial attitudes of undergraduate students participating in alternative spring break as measured by CoBRAS?; (c) iii How do alternative spring break program coordinators interpret CoBRAS scores of students from their institution?

The Color-Blind Racial Attitudes Survey (CoBRAS) was utilized as the instrument to measure color-blind racial attitudes. Students participating in alternative spring break were given the instrument prior to spring break and after spring break. Additionally, alternative spring break coordinators had the opportunity to interpret the results from their institution.

Students who participated in alternative spring break showed statistically significant lower total CoBRAS scores, as well as statistically significant lower CoBRAS scores on all three CoBRAS constructs (Unawareness of Racial Privilege; Unawareness of Institutional Discrimination; Unawareness of Blatant Racial issues). Lower CoBRAS scores indicate a reduction in color-blind racial attitudes. Factors that influenced lower scores on the instrument included host institution, issue focus of trip (people vs. animal/environment vs. mix of people/animal/environment), and gender of student participant. Through their interpretation of the quantitative results, program coordinators at the four participating institutions suggested that a) training, b) diversity of participants and leaders, c) community partners, d) developmental level/skill of trip leaders, and e) current events could have influenced the scores.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Jennings, Louise
Commitee: Bruyere, Brett, Gloeckner, Gene, Kuk, Linda
School: Colorado State University
Department: Education
School Location: United States -- Colorado
Source: DAI-A 77/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Higher education
Keywords: Alternative break, Color-blind racial attitudes scale, Mixed-methods, Racial attitudes, Service-learning, Undergraduate students
Publication Number: 3746115
ISBN: 978-1-339-39300-1
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