Date of Award

May 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Urban Studies

First Advisor

Paru Shah

Committee Members

Amanda Seligman, Kristin Sziarto


Co-Curricular Programming, Higher Education, Social Justice, Student Affairs, Urban Institution, Urban Studies


The following thesis explores how historical patterns of discrimination continue to pervade colleges and universities in ways that reinforce social inequity, lifting up work being done in divisions of student affairs as an opportunity to disrupt these patterns. After introducing a brief history of structural inequities in higher education, I turn to student affairs’ growing emphasis on programs that promote equity and social justice. I argue that because student affairs is positioned within colleges and universities, yet separate from some hierarchical power structures typical of academic affairs, it is uniquely able to provide co-curricular educational opportunities that convey the importance of equity and social justice and model what equitable, socially-just spaces look like. I refer to these spaces as fourth wave student development spaces. I then introduce the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) as a case for understanding these spaces and put my argument to the test through an assessment of a social justice leadership development workshop series called Lead the Change. I hypothesized that by constructing a space rooted in fourth wave student development principles, after each workshop, participants would be significantly more likely to agree with a series of learning outcome-based statements designed to represent skills essential to engaging in issues of social justice. Results from the program indicate promising opportunities for student affairs programming, particularly within an urban institution like UWM.