Date of Award

Fall 1-1-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy In Urban Education Degree


Education And Human Services

First Advisor

Harper, Brian E.

Second Advisor

Joanne Goodell, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Catherine A. Hansman, Ed.D.


Every year, over 3,000 City Year corps members volunteer in 325 schools, working with over 200,000 students in 29 cities across the United States. In several quantitative studies individuals reported positive, life-changing experiences as result of their service. However, none of these studies examined what these life changing experiences were, or how or why these experiences occurred. Using a phenomenological approach, this study examined the essence of the experience when young adults participated in this specific, life-changing program. Semi structured interviews explored how the City Year experience resulted in transformation. The principal research question for this study was: What is the impact of a transformative learning experience resulting from participation in City Year? The following subquestions were also investigated: What role did the urban environment play in that transformation and how can this phenomenon be used to inform City Year’s training program? My findings revealed six themes relating to how participants described their transformative learning experience. The six themes are: City Year culture and training, relationships with students, relationships with cohort members, the nature of the program, the difficulty of the program, and time changed their views of the experience. Participants benefited from City Year’s culture and training program, both of which encouraged v transformation. The difficulty of the year, and the relationships participants formed with students and other cohort members that were very important to the transformative learning process. Some participants struggled with the short-term nature and the racial implications of the program. Finally, how participants viewed the program has changed over time. This study also looked at the effect that the urban environment had to the transformative learning experience. Recommendations for further research include: exploring other experiences that are not transformative; looking at the influence that race, background, and class, have on transformation; the effect that City Year has on youth in the schools; the degree to which people are transformed and the relationship between that transformation and the way they experienced elements of the transformative learning framework.

Included in

Education Commons