Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Michelle Fine

Subject Categories

Higher Education Administration | Higher Education and Teaching | Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies | Social Psychology


Critical Consciousness, Critical Service Learning, Empathy, Integroup Relations, Service Learning, Solidarity


Set within the context of the increasing emphasis on civic engagement and transformative education, this work addresses service learning as a form of civic engagement that holds both the risks of acriticality and critical potential. This study examines the capacity for the critical consciousness and relationality that define the primary commitments of critical service learning (see Kinefuchi, 2010). Thus, this study is grounded in the ways that the circuits of privilege and dispossession were breached in a service learning course where college students travelled to mentor adolescent girls who were in a secure residential facility. The narratives of former service learning students were analyzed to excavate the service learning experience at three sites which contextualize moments of critical dialogue: the personal, the interpersonal, and the institutional level. Three themes emerged from the analysis: (1) the position of the mentor between being an agent and recipient of transformation; (2) the discourses of sameness and difference deployed to forge solidarities; and, (3) the negotiation of the boundary between the inside and outside as a marker of the personal-societal dispossession of the service learning site and those within it. The findings indicated that people blur the line that separates self/other as they acknowledge mutual impact, implicate themselves in constructing a vision of girls' well-being, and grapple with counter/representations of the facility and the girls from their temporary position as `insiders' within the facility. These findings are held in tension by participants' intermittent recognition of the facility as a space of dispossession, however, and their resistance to writing themselves into it. The findings suggest that the positions, discourses, and critical meanings are moments across this service learning experience that can be `visual aids' for intergroup processes. The future directions based on this work suggest intentionally deploying these moments in order to explore the flows of comfort, connection, remembrance, trauma, loss, and disintegration on which circuits of dispossession and privilege run (Ayala & Galletta, 2012; Fine & Ruglis, 2009).