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

Scott Moeschberger

Third Advisor

Skip Trudeau


The purpose of the study is to understand the impact of service-learning immersion experiences on college students’ expression of cross-cultural empathy. The research question states: “How do intercultural service-learning programs impact a college student’s expression of cross-cultural empathy?” The research represented insights about a shared experience from eight participants who attended a small, faith-based, liberal arts institution in the Midwest. These students are part of a living-learning community; however, they participated in four different programs in domestic and international locations that allowed them to work with orphans and vulnerable children in an intercultural context. The researcher employed a phenomenological approach and derived three distinct themes based on the essence of the participants’ experiences. The three themes are as follows: the development of interpersonal relationships, the deconstruction of a savior complex, and fostering a sense of curiosity about other cultures. The study supports higher education’s focus on globalization efforts and diversity initiatives. Furthermore, it implies that institutions need to implement, emphasize, and strengthen service-learning programs as a way to encourage the development of cross-cultural empathy in their students in order to help them understand themselves and others in the context of the larger world.