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Theresa Sullivan

Doctoral candidate
Harvard Graduate School of Education, Human Development and Education

2008 Youth Purpose Research Award Winner

Theresa Sullivan is currently the Howland Endowed Chair in Youth Leadership Development at the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development. She also is completing her doctorate in education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her academic goal is to inform the development of opportunities in and outside of school that empower young people to be agents of positive social and political change. Her focus in the past 15 years has been to bridge research and practice in this area, through work with organizations such as City Year, Inc. Search Institute, The Point of Light Foundation, and Youth Service America. Email:

Award Project: 
Exploring Development of Skills That Sustain Youth Purpose: The Effects of Service Learning and Social Context on the Sociopolitical Change Strategies of Middle School Youth
Award Project Description: 

Sociopolitical strategic thinking, an ability to figure out how to achieve social and political goals, helps young people believe they can accomplish something of consequence beyond the self. This makes it more likely they will try and be successful in doing so, fueling an ongoing sense of purpose. This study will explore how experiences and opportunities to which middle school youth are exposed, including participation in a service learning program, affect their sociopolitical strategic thinking.