Higher education institutions continue to struggle with encouraging retention for first-year students. Prior research has shown that establishing social integration during the first-year of college is a crucial component of a successful transition and has a positive influence on student persistence and academic success (Astin, 1993; Chapman & Pascarella, 1983; Tinto, 1993). Social integration has historically been defined in terms of peer connections and involvement (Tinto, 1993); however, recent research has explored the importance of sense of belonging as an important psychosocial component in the transition to college (Strayhorn, 2012a). Sense of belonging focuses on feelings of fit, perceptions of social support, and feeling as though one matters to the community. The current study sought to explore the conceptual framework in which sense of belonging was included as a component of social integration. Moreover, this study explored whether institutional action could influence first-year students’ overall social integration through a focus on peer connections, involvement, and sense of belonging.
This quasi-experimental, quantitative study analyzed the influence of a campus intervention focused on social integration, called the Belonging Reinforcement Intervention (BRI). The BRI program was delivered to first-year students at a small, private institution during the first three weeks of their collegiate experience. The Belonging Reinforcement Intervention included researched components related to social belonging and normalizing students’ not feeling an immediate sense of fit (Walton & Cohen, 2011a), reinforcing institutional commitment and belonging through communications (Hausmann et al., 2007), and research focused on peer mentoring as a way to encourage campus involvements (Peck, 2011). The study used a national instrument, the Mapworks Transition Survey, to determine if this intervention could influence the various components of social integration.
The findings from the study support a comprehensive view of social integration that includes sense of belonging. The findings further indicate that students who participated in the BRI program showed statistically significant increases in peer connections, involvement, and the current study’s social integration scale which included sense of belonging. Furthermore, the findings suggest that the BRI program was particularly beneficial for Hispanic students with their intent to become involved and for female students for their overall social integration. The results of this study have implications for future institutional interventions and developing lasting programs that will help first-year students to succeed and persist in their college experience. The conclusions presented suggest that a broader definition of social integration can allow institutions and researchers to better understand and support the challenges students face during the transition to college.
|Advisor:||D'Amico, Mark M.|
|Commitee:||Cash, Anne, Dika, Sandra, Lambert, Richard, Zenk, Leslie|
|School:||The University of North Carolina at Charlotte|
|School Location:||United States -- North Carolina|
|Source:||DAI-A 79/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Educational sociology, Higher education|
|Keywords:||First-year students, Higher education, Involvement, Peer mentoring, Sense of belonging, Social integration|
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