Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Education

Major

Adult & Higher Education

Date of Defense

2-2-2006

Graduate Advisor

Charles D. Schmitz, Ph.D.

Co-Advisor

Pat Somers

Committee

Kent Butler

Dr. Pat Somers

Abstract

The terrorist attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001 marked a significant cultural turning point for Americans. The tragic destruction of the World Trade Towers , the damage to the Pentagon and the loss of thousands of civilian lives brought an end to the optimism and feelings of security and invulnerability that marked the decade of the 1990s. Students who were enrolled in college at the time of the attacks were affected as well. This qualitative study examines the emotions and attitudes of 50 students enrolled a mid-sized, private research institution on September 11, 2001. The study explores both the short term and long term responses to the attacks.

Very little research has been conducted on college student reactions to September 11, 2001. This study indicated a departure from some of the predictions of Terror Management Theory ( Pyszczynski, Solomon, & Greenberg, 2003) that suggested high levels of patriotism and bigotry in the wake of 9/11, neither of which were widely expressed by the students interviewed. However, this study reinforces the predictions from several theories on generational change (notably those from Strauss and Howe, 1991) that the values and attitudes of the Millennial generation (students born from 1980 ¿ 2000) will be different from the generation before them. Students enrolled in college during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks will be much more outwardly focused and civic-minded than generations that preceded them.

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