Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Political Science

Committee Chair

Jeff Worsham

Committee Co-Chair

Erin Cassese

Committee Member

Clarissa Estep

Committee Member

Philip Michelbach


This work seeks to explain how institutions of higher education and political science educators within those institutions can develop students into citizens. Understanding the role of each (institution, educator, and student) within American democracy is important and the focus of this research. As the roles of each are demarcated, it becomes clear that higher education institutions and their political science educators have a unique ability to nurture students into citizens with a strong sense of civic purpose and understanding.

The subsequent chapters in this work explore the use of experiential education and other innovative teaching methods to determine if students can be taught to be better citizens. Findings in those chapters suggest that traditional means of measuring engagement (i.e. social capital) may display some change (i.e. political and civic engagement), while other areas remain stagnant (i.e. religious participation, informal social connections, and trust). Also, the inclusion of innovative teaching techniques, like virtual reality, do increase bridging and bonding social capital, as well as empathy. Additionally, student responses to the experiences does yield important results that suggests students do positively evaluate their experiential education experience. This research suggests that political science educators have the ability to impact a student’s development as a citizen, but the educator must be willing to engage the student using methods not typically employed in classroom settings.