Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP

First Advisor

Virginia Salzer, PhD

Second Advisor

Katy Tresco, PhD

Third Advisor

Johari Rashad, PhD


Getting students involved in their day to day educational processes is often challenging and, in some schools, systems appear almost unrealistic. Students in school do not often see the value of or make the connection with the importance of education. Students see movie stars such as Jennifer Lawrence drop out of school at fourteen, singers, rappers and others in the entertainment industry who are successful and make millions without an education. The potential of a YouTube posting, turning someone into a star looms in their imaginations and they think it could happen to them. Students today are even more enticed by technology and the possibilities. In communities throughout the United States, school does not offer a sense of belonging, of personal expression or of freedom to experiment with acceptance. Competing with so much external stimuli, schools face an uphill battle with improving student engagement. In some communities throughout the United States, students feel that the schools do not provide for them a sense of belonging, the opportunity for personal expression or the freedom to experiment with self-proclaimed ideas or preparation for future goals. Getting students engaged early in their educational careers could possibly make all the difference as they navigate middle and high school. Appleton, 2009, noted that student engagement involves both observable and internal engagement. Observable engagement involves things one sees in the academic setting in the classroom such as participating in the class, identified as academic functioning, and behavioral engagement such as attendance and behavior. Internal engagement encompasses both the cognitive and the affective. The cognitive engagement includes the relevance of school work and personal goals; the affective engagement identifies the students’ sense of belonging and school connectedness. Positive student engagement could change the trajectory of a student’s outlook on school, on education and on life.