Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Psychology & Research

Committee Chair

Denise Winsor

Committee Member

Susan N Nordstrom

Committee Member

Christian Mueller

Committee Member

Dan Bureau


The problem that this research will address is that the current generation of college students, Gen Z, are using social media and digital technology to connect with their peers, create community and engage with their university like no generation before them. In addition to this, student affairs professionals fall largely into the Millennial Generation or Gen X, who did not grow up as digital natives (Prensky, 2001) and thus have a very different relationship with social media. The purpose of this qualitative multiple descriptive case study research design, using the framework designed by Yin (2014), is to describe student engagement theory through the lens of social media and the digital world. This study is guided by the following research questions: How do Gen Z students use technology and social media to connect with their peers? How do Gen Z students define their campus engagement? Using data from eight interviews, a student engagement and social media ecosystem was created to show the intersection of student engagement and social media and digital technology. Additionally, this research found that social media and digital technology and student engagement are completely intertwined for Gen Z students. Gen Z students are using social media to connect with their peers regardless of if they have met them in person or not and to find out about ways to increase their campus engagement. Gen Z students attribute their social media use to an increase in their student engagement and define student engagement as doing more on campus than going to class and going home.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest.


Open access