Author ORCID Identifier


Date of Award

Spring 5-2024

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Hongli Li

Second Advisor

David Johnson

Third Advisor

Qiana Lachaud

Fourth Advisor

Michael Frisby


While career development is not the sole purpose of higher education, obtaining a better job is a strong motivating factor in college attendance. The relationship between higher education and graduates’ career outcomes can be framed through the theories of human capital, social capital, cultural capital, and signaling. In the context of finding a job, capitals are resources and traits valued by employers. Signaling theory describes the process by which job applicants signal their fitness for employment and the process by which employers interpret signals from applicants. Substantial research shows that access to the job market is shaped by race, ethnicity, and social class, with evident discrimination in the screening of applicants by race/ethnicity. Lower socioeconomic status decreases applicants' appeal to employers, and men are more successful than women in finding employment. The American Association of Colleges and Universities identified eleven high-impact experiences, and participation in multiple high-impact experiences is associated with greater learning gains and compensatory gains for marginalized students. However, little research has been done on how these experiences affect career outcomes. Undergraduate research is considered a high-impact experience, and project-based learning involving large teams embedded in faculty research (LT-PBL-EFR) is a special case of undergraduate research. This dissertation presents a framework through which LT-PBL-EFR may support equity in job placement, and employs propensity score analysis to examine the effect of LT-PBL-EFR on job placement and equity in job placement. When other factors are held constant, participation in three semesters of LT-PBL-EFR is associated with triple the odds of having found a job prior to graduation, comparable to odds associated with internships. The positive association is consistent among non-white students and students of lower socioeconomic status. This suggests that participation in multiple semesters of LT-PBL-EFR improves job placement rates for the general population as well as for non-white students and students of lower socioeconomic status.


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