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Montana State University - Campus Climate and Diversity Issues: Listening to Students

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Mary Elizabeth Anne Skelly

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree


Doctor of Education in



Bozeman, Montana July 2004



Mary Elizabeth Anne Skelly 2004

All Rights Reserved


of a dissertation by Mary Elizabeth Anne Skelly

This dissertation has been read by each member of the dissertation committee and has been found to be satisfactory regarding content, English usage, format, citations, bibliographic style, and consistency, and is ready for submission to the College of Graduate Studies.

Dr. Betsy Palmer

Approved for the Department of Education Dr. Robert N. Carson

Approved for the College of Graduate Studies Dr. Bruce McLeod


In presenting this dissertation in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a doctoral degree at Montana State University, I agree that the Library shall make it available to borrowers under rules of the Library. I further agree that copying of this dissertation is allowable only for scholarly purposes, consistent with “fair use” as prescribed in the U.S. Copyright Law. Requests for extensive copying or reproduction of this dissertation should be referred to ProQuest Information and Learning, 300 North Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106, to whom I have granted “the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute my dissertation in and from microform along with the non-exclusive right to reproduce and distribute my abstract in any format in whole or in part.”

Mary Elizabeth Anne Skelly


This work is dedicated first and foremost to my husband and partner in life, William A. Skelly, for always being present, supportive, and engaged with me in life- long learning and genuine caring for students of all ages.

To my parents, James A. and Anne E. Mernagh, and my parents-in-law, V. Robert and Joan C. Skelly, whose love and support provided me, early and throughout my life, with the tools necessary to live, learn, and love. Most recently, to my mother, Anne, and mother-in-law, Joan, who continue to demonstrate that true determination in the face of adversity is a gift of love.

To my family: Annie, Clayton, Ray, Janet, Jimmy, Rita, Geralyn, Chris, Pete, Charlotte, and Gord for your ongoing support of us, and of each other, especially during times of great challenge. As ever, to my nieces and nephews, whom I love and admire, and who are never-ending sources of motivation: Annelyse Burke, Grace Anne, Austin James, Kylee Rose, Rachel Ann, Elizabeth Hope, Russell Peter, Connor William, Patrick Arthur, Ryan Robert Stanley, Kellen James, and Geoffrey Gordon Noble.

To the students, faculty, staff, and friends with whom I have had the privilege of working and playing over the course of my career, thank you. You have all contributed to my life and development in special ways, and I appreciate all you have done for me. Also, and especially, to the students who volunteered their time to be involved in my study and to share their stories—I am forever grateful.

Finally, to Robert A. Fellenz, Professor Emeritus, Montana State University- Bozeman, for all you have meant and continue to mean, not only to me, but to all of the graduate students who are lucky enough to claim you as their own. Beyond retirement, your work and your light continue to shine in all directions and on many campuses of higher education. Thank you, Bob!


I want to express a special thank you to Dr. Betsy Palmer, chair of my current dissertation committee, for your guidance, support, and leadership throughout the completion of my dissertation. Due to a number of changes within the Department of Education over the course of my time as a student, I am indebted to committee members, both previous and current. To members of my previous committee: Dr. Robert A. Fellenz, Dr. Gary Conti, Dr. Ralph Brigham, and Dr. Ann de Onis, thank you. To the members of my current committee: Dr. Betsy Palmer, Dr. Mary Bushing, Dr. Courtney Stryker, Dr. Larry Baker, Dr. Allen Yarnell, and Dr. Al Zale, thank you. A special note of thanks to my readers: Drs. Palmer, Bushing, and Stryker for your ongoing feedback, attention to detail, and special insights in the completion of this final document. Beyond that, your collective support, professional collaboration, and personal friendship mean more than I can express.

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