Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education/Higher Education Administration

First Advisor

Dwight E. Giles, Jr.

Second Advisor

Katalin Szelenyi

Third Advisor

Lester F. Goodchild


This historical case study of the national staff of the College Young Christian Students (CYCS) employs social movement theory to understand the factors that led to both the development and demise of this movement of Catholic college students. This study adopts narrative inquiry to explore the internal dynamics of the national staff. There were two primary sources utilized in this study; the first, an examination of archival material, which included letters, transcripts of meetings, journal entries, and written reflections by members of the national staff. Interviews conducted with nine former full-time members of the national staff comprised the second primary source. This study was organized chronologically, and was bounded, in that it was limited to the work of the national office.

CYCS was an example of specialized Catholic Action, which was a movement of lay Catholics formed to establish Christian virtues and principles throughout society. The movement was considered specialized because people were organized by their particular life work, e.g., students, laborers, and farmers. A key organizing principle of the CYCS was the social inquiry method, which gathered students into groups of eight to twelve participants who worked to establish Christian values within their environment employing a three step method: observe, judge, and act.

The national office of the CYCS was formed in 1948 and headquartered in Chicago. There were three core elements which characterized CYCS as a national movement: a general committee that provided oversight to the movement, a national staff of full-time workers, and an annual program of social inquiries for groups to adopt on individual college campuses. The national movement began with strong leadership in 1948, endured during a period of minimal social activism in the 1950s, and rebounded in the late 1950s with an expanded national staff through the mid-1960s. CYCS ceased to function as a national organization by the end of 1967 during a moment of increased social activism. This study explores the rich history of the national staff and considers the factors that led to the diminishment of CYCS as national movement of Catholic undergraduates.


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