I'm a student of human development and culture

My Current Research

Since 2011, I’ve been a Fellow at the Institute for Social Innovation (ISI) at Fielding Graduate University. My research project, Family-School-Community Partnerships: A Systems Approach to Positive Youth Development, investigates the internal abilities that help young people grow into supportive family members, innovative workers, engaged citizens, and ethical leaders.

My research through ISI was instrumental to creating The Compass Advantage framework that highlights the important systemic connection between eight core human abilities: curiosity, sociability, resilience, self-awareness, integrity, resourcefulness, creativity, and empathy. Research suggests these abilities are key contributors to positive youth and adult development.

Currently, my work involves helping families, schools, and communities apply the Compass framework research at home, school, and in out-of-school activities. I developed The Compass Survey of Core Human Attributes, a collection of surveys to help youth, adults, and families identify, understand, and strengthen core internal abilities that help people thrive. These free surveys are available for individuals online and at low costs to schools, classrooms, nonprofits, and researchers. It is the only validated survey of its kind that measures how often individuals use the eight core abilities of the compass. My ongoing research seeks to correlate these internal abilities to aspects of thriving.

Research in Youth Civic Engagement

Tomorrow's Change Makers: Reclaiming the Power of Citizenship for a New GenerationMy research on youth civic engagement, available in my book, Tomorrow’s Change Makers: Reclaiming the Power of Citizenship for a New Generation (2015), explores how highly-engaged youth experience and meet the challenges of civic engagement during the formative adolescent and young adult years. It examines how these young people develop initiative for public service, learn from experiences and adult relationships, and discover meaning that propels them to take action in the world.

Youth volunteerism and civic engagement has changed in America. While the numbers of young people who volunteer have risen substantially, recent studies show that very few find meaning and purpose through serving their communities. For many, volunteerism has become just another school requirement that bolsters a good college resume.

My research suggests that in order for democracy to flourish, we must reverse these trends. Through real stories from civically-engaged youth, Tomorrow’s Change Makers illustrates the types of relationships and experiences that propel today’s young people to work toward the betterment of society. These narratives, combined with research in child and adolescent development, show why meaningful service should be at the heart of educating and raising American children. My book introduces The Compass Advantage framework for understanding and applying core principles of positive youth development. It demonstrates how families, schools, and communities not only play vital roles in raising tomorrow’s citizens, but also foster the conditions that help youth chart their own self-fulfilling pathways through life.

Testimonials about my research:

“Marilyn’s research study, based on interviews with highly engaged youth, is a scholarly, insightful, and impressive contribution to the field of civic engagement.”
—Peter Levine, PhD, Associate Dean for Research, Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, Tufts University

“Preparing our youngest citizens to become engaged in civic life is an essential task for families, schools, and communities, one that requires thoughtful and serious investment. This well-researched, insightful book shows how young people develop the passion to improve society, and how supportive adults can guide them. An essential and pleasurable read for all who care about the future of democracy.”
—Anne T. Henderson, author of Beyond the Bake Sale and Senior Consultant, Annenberg Institute for School Reform

Tomorrow’s Change Makers investigates the dynamic relationship between two essential elements of becoming a person—personal identity and worldview. Through the voices of her participants, Dr. Price-Mitchell reminds us how young people discover motivation and passion to improve the lives of others. This is inspiring and useful research for those who work with youth.”
—Stephen D. Arnold, PhD, Co-founder and Vice Chairman of the George Lucas Educational Foundation

A video that outlines my book

Research Study with Teens

My original research study on which my book Tomorrow's Change Makers is based, is available in abstract and/or full-text versions via your academic institution's subscription to the ProQuest Database. Link to ProQuest document: Civic learning at the edge: Transformative stories of highly engaged youth, by Price-Mitchell, Marilyn, Ph.D., Fielding Graduate University, 2010, 187 pages; AAT 3422334. (ProQuest Document ID: 2149927771; ISBN: 9781124212180)

A 4-page PDF Research Summary, including Abstract, is available for download. Citation for original study is as follows:

Price-Mitchell, M. (2010). Civic learning at the edge: Transformative stories of highly engaged youth. Doctoral dissertation. Fielding Graduate University. Santa Barbara, CA.