Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education/Higher Education PhD

First Advisor

Katalin Szelényi

Second Advisor

Tara L. Parker

Third Advisor

Julie J. Park


Research has indicated that interacting with diverse others is one way for students to achieve educationally meaningful outcomes. Co-curricular activity involvement, including student organizations, is one venue for students to interact informally with their peers. However, if involvement in student organizations is primarily limited to same-race interactions, then the opportunity for student organization involvement to maximize educational outcomes is limited. Some research indicates that participation patterns in certain kinds of organizations may lead to lower levels of interracial friendships.

This study explored the ways in which involvement in four kinds of organizations with differing levels of racial diversity and differing missions shaped cross-racial interactions for student members and expanded on previous research by addressing both within-organization and across-organization interactions. Interracial contact theory and an organizational culture lens were used to analyze the findings. Three kinds of involvement emerged in this study - campus activity involvement, multicultural involvement, and involvement overlapping participation in campus activity-focused organizations and multicultural organizations. Many factors beyond the level of membership diversity shaped cross-racial interactions.

This study suggests two main strategies for increasing opportunities for cross-racial interactions. The first strategy is to increase the membership diversity within organizations by both supporting students in stepping out of their comfort zone and making predominantly White organizations more welcoming for students of color. The second strategy involves increasing opportunities for campus activity-based organizations and multicultural organizations to work together.


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