Socially Responsible Leadership: The Role of Participation in Short-term Service Immersion Programs

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The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between short-term service immersion programs (STSI), such as Alternative Spring Break (ASB), and socially responsible leadership as measured by the Socially Responsible Leadership Scale (SRLS). Participation in STSI programs have been growing exponentially since 2006 (Bohn, 2009; Break Away, 2009, 2010). Despite the dramatic growth in STSI program participation, there is limited research on outcomes of STSI participation, particularly leadership capacities. This study provides insight into the profile of STSI program participants as well as promising findings as to the relationship between STSI participation and socially responsible leadership.

The Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership (MSL) served as the dataset for this study. A sample of 9,553 seniors who indicated participation in leadership education and training programs was analyzed to understand the demographics of STSI participation as well as its relationship with socially responsible leadership. Using an adapted version of Astin's (1991, 1993) Inputs-Environments-Outcomes (IEO) college impact model as the conceptual framework for this study, three hypotheses were tested to assess the relationship between STSI participation and socially responsible leadership. Independent samples t-tests and one blocked, forced-entry, hierarchical regression were used to analyze data. Although the findings from this study did show that STSI participants scored higher on the socially responsible leadership outcome than those with no STSI, STSI participation did not significantly contribute to socially responsible leadership when controlling for pre-college variables, gender, race/ethnicity, age, and other environmental variables, which included: participation in community service, study abroad, internships, and socio-cultural conversations.

Further analyses supported extant literature affirming a connection between community service participation and socially responsible leadership as well as the connection between participation in socio-cultural conversations and socially responsible leadership. Post hoc analyses exposed a relationship between STSI participation and higher scores on the socio-cultural conversation scale. Socially responsible leadership is influenced by the included environmental variables and more than 9% of the total variance explained in this study was explained by the high-impact practices (Kuh, 2009) included in the study. These findings fill a gap between research and practice and provide support for the development STSI programs on campus.