Department of Educational Administration


Date of this Version

Spring 4-12-2013

Document Type



Mertes, S.J. (2013). Exploring the construct of social integration in a community college environment. (Doctoral Dissertation, University of Nebraska)


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies (Educational Leadership and Higher Education Administration), Under the Supervision of Professor Richard Hoover. Lincoln, Nebraska: April, 2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Scott J. Mertes


Among current retention models, Tinto’s Interactionalist Model has reached near paradigmatic status. When his model has been applied to two-year college settings, the social integration results have been inconsistent. This has led Maxwell (2000) and Deil-Amen (2011) to suggest that a different construct of social integration exists in community colleges, and that this construct may not be related to the traditional construct of social integration in four-year university settings. The current study sought to ascertain whether these two constructs of social integration were related. A random sample of two-year college students were asked to complete a survey consisting of questions aimed at assessing both social integration constructs. In addition, since many community colleges serve the dual purpose of educating both occupational and transfer students, this study investigated whether differences existed between these two sub-populations in both the social integration constructs. Furthermore, this study investigated whether each of these two constructs differed when interacting with demographic variables including gender and race. Finally, the influence of age on social integration was studied for both constructs of social integration, as well as its potential interaction with program of study (i.e. occupational vs. transfer students). After conducting the analysis, it was found that the two social integration constructs were highly related. In addition, no significant differences were found between transfer and occupational students on either social integration construct. While significant correlations were found concerning age and social integration, they were all small and explained little of the overall variance. As such, the influence of age on social integration was minimal. However, it was found that social integration, using Tinto’s construct, does significantly vary by gender, and that social integration, using the Maxwell (2000) and Deil-Amen (2011) construct does significantly vary when gender interacts with program of study (i.e. occupational vs. transfer students). Future research strategies including longitudinal analysis, regression analysis, investigation of campus ecology variables, and qualitative techniques were all recommended, as was the necessity of institutional-specific research.

Advisor: Richard Hoover