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«ABSTRACT Title of Dissertation: A Case Study of Undergraduate Student Employment at a Private University: Exploring the Effects of Social Class and ...»

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Title of Dissertation: A Case Study of Undergraduate Student

Employment at a Private University: Exploring

the Effects of Social Class and Institutional


Richard Thomas Satterlee

Doctor of Philosophy, 2009

Dissertation Directed By: KerryAnn O’Meara, Ph.D.

Education Leadership, Higher Education and

International Education

This research examined if the trend which finds greater numbers of undergraduate college students working, and in some cases for many hours each week, has differing outcomes for students from different social class backgrounds.

Employing a Bourdieuian theoretical framework the study examined if college students’ choices about work (e.g., whether or not to work; whether to work oncampus vs. off-campus; and how many hours to work per week) are shaped by their social class and the institutional context of the college they attend. The study also investigated if the policies, practices and characteristics of one private university affected students’ work, academic and co-curricular choices.

The research investigated these questions through employing a cross-case study analysis that focused on the work experience of students at a private, four-year Catholic university in the northeast. The case study drew on multiple data sources, including institutional level data collected from students’ participation in national surveys, interviews with students, and interviews with college administrators and student employers.

Findings from the research indicate that students from working class backgrounds were more likely to work more hours per week during the academic year than their middle- and upper-class peers who were employed. Working class students also were more likely to hold more than one job during the academic year and to combine on-campus and off-campus employment than their middle- and upper-class peers. Despite this, working-class students often found a sense of belonging and fit through their jobs.

The study also found that working class students were far less likely to participate in study abroad than their middle- and upper-class peers. Working class students frequently cited a concern for the continuity of their employment as a deterrent to study abroad. Working class students were somewhat less likely to participate in co-curricular programs than their middle- and upper-class peers.

Nonetheless, the study found that working class students often pursued campus jobs that provided opportunities for leadership development, community service or interaction with faculty.




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Advisory Committee:

Associate Professor KerryAnn O’Meara, Chair Professor Susan Komives Associate Professor Sharon Fries-Britt Assistant Professor Marvin Titus Affiliate Associate Professor Mickey Fenzel © Copyright by Richard T. Satterlee


I dedicate this work in loving memory of my parents, who were teachers and mentors to so many. I owe all that I have done with my education to them.

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I wish to thank the Jesuit Association of Student Personnel Administrators (JASPA) for partial funding for this dissertation.

I am truly grateful to so many people who have supported my graduate education and dissertation journey. Early in the dissertation process I was advised by Dr. Laura Perna, Dr. Betty Malen, and Dr. Bob Croninger. Laura’s initial review of the proposal, Betty’s steady counsel, and Bob’s critical assessment of the theoretical framework helped immensely.

I am blessed to have such a supportive and knowledgeable advisory committee. I am grateful to Dr. Sharon Fries-Britt, Dr. Marvin Titus, Dr. Susan Komives, and Dr. Mickey Fenzel for their constructive criticism and encouragement for the project. During my doctoral education I have been constantly surprised by the web of relationships and fortuitous alliances that have made getting the degree all the more worthwhile. Chief among these is the relationship I developed with my advisor, Dr. KerryAnn O’Meara. KerryAnn took interest in my work despite never having me in class, provided insightful commentary on every chapter, and showed great kindness and patience throughout the process. I am so thankful that the University of Maryland was able to bring her back to the faculty.

I also have to thank all of those at Loyola College who have supported me.

My colleagues and friends Xavier Cole, Donnie Cook, Maggie Basil, and Dottie Wilson have provided me with strong support and encouragement. I also want to thank Krysten Fertonardo, who is the most recent addition to our staff. Krysten proved to be an invaluable and efficient proofreader. Above all I have to thank my

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encouragement I never would have started this degree and without her support I never would have finished it.

I owe the most to my wife, Mari and daughter, Kristina. You are the two great loves of my life. Kristina, I have watched with pride as you have become a bright and talented student in your own right and that has inspired me. And Mari, you have seen me through my lowest points in this process. You are, and have been, the great constant in my life. Words cannot express what this has meant to me.

Finally, I am thankful to the student informants and administrative participants who so willingly shared their experiences with me. In particular, I was blessed to get to know 24 undergraduates who were in the middle of their college journey. The complexities of their lives, their hopes and dreams for their education, and the richness of their stories reaffirmed for me the reason I chose to work in higher education.

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Chapter 2: Review of Literature and Description of Theoretical Framework Research on Student Employment and Student Outcomes………………… 17 The Effect of Employment on Academic Outcomes………………... 19 The Effect of Employment on Retention…………………………… 23 The Effect of Employment on Cognitive Development……………. 26 The Effect of Employment on Student Involvement

The Effect of Employment on Career Development………………. 33

Summary of Empirical Studies:

Methodological Issues and Shortcomings of the Research…35 Theoretical Perspective and Framework……………………………………37 Introduction to the Work of Pierre Bourdieu……………………….38 Pierre Bourdieu: Biographical Information/Formative Influences... 40 Bourdieu’s Theory of Social Reproduction…………………………44 Habitus……………………………………………………... 44 Capital……………………………………………………... 45 Field ……………………………………………………….. 48 Practice…………………………………………………….. 49

Bourdieu Reconsidered:

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