Date of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Leadership (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Artika Tyner; Kathleen Boyle; Stephen Brookfield


The student affairs profession has a history and values grounded in social justice education and college student identity development. Educating students about social justice and promoting identity development are central competencies expected of professionals in the field. Literature on social justice education in the field describes a continuum ranging from awareness to taking action for social justice. Core literature in the field focuses on ally development (Bishop, 2002; Broido, 2000; Edwards, 2006; Reason, et al., 2005a), but little focuses specifically on activist development, and no research exists that explores social justice activist identity development. This qualitative grounded theory study examines how social justice activists develop an activist identity. My analysis of the data yielded a two-fold framework for understanding activist identity development. The first uses the metaphor of a fire to describe four core elements of activist identity: heart, head, will, and belief. The second explores nonlinear positions along activists “winding journey,” including values development, integration, negotiation, and embodiment. Results yield a helpful framework for guiding social justice education along the social justice continuum from awareness to action.


Social Justice, Activism, Identity Development, Student Affairs, Higher Education

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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