Date of Award

8-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Susan Schultz

Second Supervisor

Whitney Rapp

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to explore the four factors of sense of community and to establish if there is a difference in the sense of community for students with and without hidden disabilities. A quantitative survey was conducted in a cross-sectional format, measuring responses during the spring semester of the academic year at a small, private, liberal arts college in Western New York State with approximately 2,600 undergraduate students. The data revealed that, overall, students experienced all four factors of sense of community: needs, membership, influence, and connection. The results indicate that in the areas of reinforcement of needs, membership, and overall sense of community, students who did not have hidden disabilities experienced a higher sense of community than students who identified themselves as having a hidden disability. In the areas of influence and connection, there was no statistically significant difference between those students with hidden disabilities and their nondisabled peers. Consideration for future research would be to conduct this study at other colleges and universities across the country to get a greater sample of students, consider research-based strategies to provide supports through universal design, and, develop a way to collect data on sense of community for new students throughout the first year in a program of study. By tracking students who are new to the campus, staff could determine if further supports are needed for groups of students. By establishing a connection with students who may be struggling, colleges can increase the chances that students will begin to feel their needs are being met.

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