Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Dr. John R. Thelin


An individual’s years in college are a time of trial and transformation. This dissertation examined college students’ self-created accounts of their time in college in order to identify students’ significant meaning-making activities during those years. Four primary areas of student life were investigated: the rules that students were expected to adhere to, the ways in which students and their class cohorts antagonized one another, hazing, and class competitions.

A comparative historical approach was used to analyze student-created accounts of college life in the years 1871-1941. Archival research at a geographically diverse sample of fourteen colleges and universities provided primary source materials created by students, including correspondence, diaries, photographs, and scrapbooks.

Collectively, these sources affirm that students derived their significant meaning-making experiences from their extracurricular activities. An additional dimension of the study proposed an extension of the work of sociologist Burton Clark on organizational sagas. An analysis of students’ self-reported experiences suggest that Clark’s notion of organizational sagas extends beyond the bounds of discrete institutions, reaching down to the level of individuals and upward to college students as a collective entity.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)