Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career and Higher Education

Major Professor

William H. Young, III, Ed.D.

Committee Member

John Ferron, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Tom Miller, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Judith Ponticell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

W. Robert Sullins, Ed.D.


first-year experience, common reading program, narrative engagement


This study used the narrative engagement framework from the communication discipline to explore first-year college students’ engagement in common reading program events and activities, engagement with the text’s narrative, and students’ affirmation of attitudes espoused in the text’s narrative. A total of 325 first-year students enrolled at Texas State University responded to a web-based survey of about their experiences with the 2016-2017 Common Reading Program book, What It Is Like to Go To War (Marlantes, 2011). The book, a memoir of Marlantes’ experiences as a Marine Lieutenant during the Vietnam War, features scholarly reflections on the nature of war and its consequences on a society and its soldiers. The results of this non-experimental, exploratory quantitative study indicated that students were moderately engaged with the narrative itself, and large variability existed among students’ engagement with the common reading program. In contrast, there was little variability in students’ prior experiences with the military and war; in fact, most students had only minor prior experiences. An orthogonal four-factor model, originally developed by Busselle and Bilandzic (2009), fit the data in this study and were explained by the higher order factor of narrative engagement. The multivariate analyses conducted for this study suggested the presence of differences between students’ prior experiences with the themes on the program engagement and narrative engagement variables, but not in the affirmation of story-consistent beliefs. No differences existed among students’ intended majors on narrative engagement, program engagement, or story-consistent beliefs. The analyses identified differences among gender identities on story-consistent beliefs, but not program engagement or narrative engagement. Finally, multiple regression found no relationship between students’ affirmation of story-consistent beliefs and their program and narrative experiences.