Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Sociology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

John W. Murphy

Second Committee Member

Linda L. Belgrave

Third Committee Member

Jomills H. Braddock III

Fourth Committee Member

Karen A. Callaghan


A number of scholars have identified a crisis in the field of education. Namely, students today are more self-absorbed and individualistic than ever before. In other words, they have few social commitments and lack a sense of community. This lack of social responsibility is particularly problematic in Colombia, where a privileged few enjoy all the spoils and the elite youth are groomed as the future leaders of the country. For many, hope is all but lost on these socially irresponsible students. On the other hand, some planners and critics believe that service-learning -- which connects community service to the classroom -- is a remedy for this lack of social solidarity. With this in mind, service-learning has become increasingly popular during the past decade all over the globe, and particularly in Latin American countries such as Colombia. This research project is an evaluation of the service-learning program at one of the most elite high schools in Colombia. The project has two specific aims: (1) to document the impact of the program on the attitudes and behaviors of the students and (2) to assess the quality of the implementation of the program. In order to achieve these aims, three data collection methods -questionnaires, interviews, and focus groups - were used to paint a holistic picture of the program. Furthermore, a theoretical model of service-learning was developed as a benchmark to evaluate the program. The results revealed that the service-learning program was having a minimal impact on students' attitudes and behaviors. In fact, the analysis showed that in many instances the program was simply reinforcing stereotypes and solidifying the social division in Colombia. The failure to achieve the desired outcomes may have been due to the fact that the program did not fulfill many of the required expectations of service-learning. In the final chapter, specific recommendations are given to improve the program.


Service-learning; Colombia; Contact Theory