Matthew Hudson-Flege, a recent PhD graduate in the International Family & Community Studies program at Clemson University, received a 2017 National Service and Civic Engagement Research grant. Advised by Dr. Martie Thompson, a Professor in the Department of Youth, Family, and Community Studies and the Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life, Hudson-Flege examined the long-term impact of AmeriCorps service for diverse groups of members. His goal was to better understand the AmeriCorps members so he could make suggestions that would allow the organization to improve the member experience and effective recruitment practices.
Analyses of the 1999-2007 AmeriCorps Longitudinal Study have demonstrated lasting, positive outcomes for members in the areas of civic engagement, education, employment, and life skills, but AmeriCorps members were typically considered as one homogenous group. This dissertation sought to address the knowledge gap by answering the following research questions through a secondary analysis of the AmeriCorps Longitudinal Study:
- What types of diverse members serve in AmeriCorps?
- How do outcome trajectories differ among diverse member profiles?
A cluster analysis generated four distinct profiles of AmeriCorps members: Young Idealists (recent high school grads with high public service motivation); Wanderers (19-20 year olds with low/moderate public service motivation); Gappers (recent college grads with low/moderate public service motivation); and Public Servants (recent college grads with high public service motivation). All four groups demonstrated positive growth in civic engagement outcomes; however, outcomes in other areas were mixed among the profiles. AmeriCorps therefore appears successful in fostering civic engagement among diverse volunteers, but member recruitment and retention efforts should be tailored to meet the needs of these diverse groups. Drs. Hudson-Flege and Thompson are currently expanding this research to include more recent survey data, as well as individual interviews with AmeriCorps alumni.