Master of Arts in Higher Education (MAHE) Theses

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Scott Gaier

Second Advisor

Todd Ream

Third Advisor

Tim Herrmann

Distinguished Theses



Existing literature widely asserts the increasing prevalence of consumer-minded students, often presenting consumerism and learning as opposed. The purpose of the study is to better understand the relationship between consumer and learner orientations and explore aspects of a liberal arts education affecting each. To this end, the study employed a mixed methods embedded sequential design. A survey—utilizing both quantitative learner and consumer scales along with qualitative open-ended items—was administered to students. A subsequent focus group further clarified and explored survey results. Quantitative data revealed students identify more strongly as learners than consumers but still identify positively as consumers. Furthermore, a correlation revealed a weak inverse relationship between the two factors. In the qualitative data, students spoke of learning and consumerism as strongly opposed, thus challenging the quantitative findings. Students identified community, professors, and faith as most impactful to forming learner identities. Parents, society, and high tuition strongly influenced consumer orientations. Together, the qualitative and quantitative data revealed the inherent complexity in the relationship between consumerism and learning. Therefore, the importance of appropriately acknowledging both learning and consumerism when communicating with students serves as the basis for implications discussed.


Granted the honor of the 2018 Distinguished Thesis Award.