Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Ph.D. Doctor of Philosophy

Academic Discipline

Community Psychology

First Advisor

Bradley Olson

Second Advisor

Tiffeny Jimenez

Third Advisor

Judah Viola


This dissertation describes how graduate students in a community organizing class move along the critical consciousness pathway. Critical consciousness in the academic arena is critical to the development of democratic participation and agency in students. Critical consciousness is the ability to see, judge and act on issues of injustice in order to create social change. In addition, this research examines what barriers arise in that process. Research participants from an urban, private university in the Midwest narrate the creation of a learning environment and the process of moving towards critical consciousness awakening through journaling and focus group discussions. The data, along with researcher observations, suggests that some participants, when given the opportunity, will negotiate safe space, look for ways to allow each other a voice in the arena and move along the critical consciousness pathway. The research also suggests that a number of obstacles can occur, even with the use of liberatory learning methods, this includes the fault lines of race, a sense of “otherness” and an emotional intensity—fear, anger, that moves people away from critical conscious.