Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name



Educational Leadership and Policy

First Advisor

Michael Owens


The Keystone Learning Community was implemented by the Department of Campus Recreation to address retention at the institution. This learning community for incoming freshmen consists of two phases. Phase I is as an outdoor orientation program that includes a three day, two night canoeing and camping experiencer lead by upperclassmen leaders. Faculty and staff from the institution complete every aspect of Phase I with the freshmen. Phase II is class time that concentrates on development of critical thinking and writing skills.

Through surveys and interviews, participants in the Keystone Learning Community reported strong peer, faculty, and upperclassmen engagement initiated by the completion of Phase I. Participants in the Keystone LC considered Phase I to a be a significant event in their transition to college. The engagement facilitated in Phase I created and strengthened the ability to persist in the participants. The strategies to persist the students gained through their engagement leads to retention of the participants. Both persistence and retention as facilitated through the Keystone Learning Community feed back into deeper engagement at the institution.A conceptual framework is introduced that purposes a non-linear alternative to the Tinto model of student departure. This new framework highlights the dynamic complexity and interactions between engagement, persistence, and retention.