Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Fall 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Strategic Leadership Studies


T. Dary Erwin

Karen A. Ford

John D. Hathcoat


The rising need, cost, and debt for postsecondary education has increased attention and scrutiny on its value, and colleges and universities must underscore outcomes beyond employment of graduates. Psychological well-being is a promising area to expand the value of postsecondary education. Using correlations, multiple regression, and multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA), this study seeks to contribute to an emergent body of empirical knowledge about the impact of postsecondary education on students’ well-being by specifically examining the relationship between participation in cocurricular and extracurricular experiences and students’ well-being defined by their sense of meaning in life and work. To this end, university administrators submitted students’ cocurricular and extracurricular experiences for an academic year at one large, four-year, primarily undergraduate and residential institution in the southeast. At the same institution, 1,426 students completed meaning in life and work measures at the end of the academic year – 1,151 had verified student leadership engagement; 275 did not.

Broadly, results did not support the hypothesis that student leadership engagement relates to higher levels of meaning in life and work; though, results showed that the type of leadership role and engagement type had a nominal practical, but statistically significant, effect to differentiate between the average levels of meaning in life and work. Specifically, experiences that were project-based leadership roles or engagement types showed small, positive, statistically significant differences in some of their meaning in life and work outcomes. This result implies that postsecondary education institutions need to find ways to create meaningful project-based experiences for students in order to support the development of meaning in life and work while students are in college. Research must continue to examine how college experiences – curricular, cocurricular, and extracurricular – relate to and influence college success outcomes beyond salaries, debt, and first destinations after graduation (such as meaning in life and work).



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