Master of Arts in Higher Education Theses

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Vance Maloney

Second Advisor

Scott Gaier

Third Advisor

Tim Herrmann


The spiritual development of college students has recently become a greater concern for student affairs professionals in higher education. This study was designed to discover if the social climate of living-learning environments would contribute to the spiritual development of college students. More specifically, this study was conducted with freshmen students involved in an international living-learning community and tested the students' perceptions of their social climate, along with their growth in spiritual maturity over a semester. Freshmen students experiencing traditional on-campus living arrangements were the control group for this study. Social climate was defined as the unique characteristics of a specific group environment. Rudolph Moos' Group Environment Scale was utilized in order to measure the social climate of the living-learning environment. Craig W. Ellison's Spiritual Maturity Index assessed the change in spiritual maturity over the semester. Spiritual maturity was defined as possessing Christ-like characteristics. It was predicted that the study abroad students would experience higher levels of social climate dimensions and that these dimensions would be a predictor for growth in spiritual maturity. Thus, it was anticipated that the study abroad students would have greater growth in spiritual maturity than students on-campus. The subscales of independence and self-discovery were more statistically significant within the study abroad students than the on-campus students. The independence subscale was also a significant predictor of student spiritual maturity. Students in the international living-learning community did not higher growth in spiritual maturity than on-campus students as predicted. However it was found that the students participating in the study abroad program entered their freshman year significantly more spiritually mature than on-campus students. These results raise significant implications for student affairs professionals working in study abroad programs. Specific programming and mentoring relationships may need to be directed toward students at a higher spiritual maturity level.