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Research Articles

Vol. 18 No. 2

The Impact of a Service-Learning Design Course on White Students' Racial Attitudes

  • Sara Houshmand
  • Lisa B. Spanierman
  • Amanda M. Beer
  • V. Paul Poteat
  • Laura Lawson
June 16, 2014


This study examined the racial attitudes of White undergraduates (N = 15) enrolled in a service-learning design studio, in which students worked closely on landscape architecture projects with residents in a low-income African American community. Using a modified consensual qualitative research method, the authors analyzed a series of guided inquiry questions at three time points and a focus group discussion at the end of the studio. This resulted in the identification of themes linked to three domains: students’ hopes and expectations prior to the service-learning design studio; their experiences during the semester-long service-learning project, and their reflections about the service-learning project upon its completion. Although some participants claimed enhanced awareness of their social location, students continued to blame community members for their living conditions. These themes are discussed with regard to central concepts in multicultural psychology and education, such as racial color-blindness and White privilege, and implications for future research and multicultural service-learning courses are offered.