Author's School

Brown School of Social Work

Author's Department/Program

Social Work


English (en)

Date of Award

January 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Amanda McBride


International volunteering and service: IVS) has the potential to promote intercultural competence, or "the ability to communicate effectively and appropriately in intercultural situations based on one's intercultural knowledge, skills, and attitudes": Deardorff, 2008: 33). Although conditions of IVS vary greatly across program models, nearly all claim that volunteering will increase intercultural competence. Contact theory, transformative learning theory, and various stage theories of intercultural learning all suggest, however, that cultural contact will only improve a volunteer's intercultural competence under certain conditions. This dissertation builds on previous scholarship by isolating four characteristics that vary across institutional models, and testing how these variations affect volunteers' perceptions of intercultural competence. These variables include duration of service, cultural immersion, guided reflection, and contact reciprocity. The study design is cross-sectional and retrospective. It utilizes the International Volunteering Impacts Survey: IVIS) to collect self-reported responses from 291 volunteers who served during the years 2002 and 2006 in one of two service models that differ on multiple characteristics. Using these data, a three-step hierarchical multiple regression assesses the relationship between the four independent variables and intercultural competence, controlling for other individual and institutional effects. Findings suggest that that service duration, cultural immersion, guided reflection, and contact reciprocity are all positively related to intercultural competence. In addition, guided reflection appears to moderate the relationship between duration and intercultural competence. This study responds to the need for research on the effects of IVS across institutional models, and has important implications for recent legislation supporting international service.


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