Thomas Akiva

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Thomas Akiva

Thomas Akiva

University of Pittsburgh
5938 Wesley W. Posvar Hall
230 South Bouquet Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
Phone: 412-648-7320


My research focuses on organized activities that youth attend during out-of-school time (OST) and what these voluntary environments can teach us about learning. I study this topic from a motivation perspective, investigating instructional practices, thought processes, decisions made during learning, and the developmental and educational consequences of participation. I also have interest and experience studying mindfulness among adults and youth in various learning settings.

I currently have projects in two areas:

  • Adolescent motivation to attend and engage in youth programs -- Given the multitude of ways high school students can spend their time, what factors contribute to their decisions to enroll in and regularly attend OST program activities? I am addressing this topic within an expectancy-value framework, focusing on intrinsic factors related to people (peers, staff) and content (activities, projects, cool materials in the program space).
  • Developmental effects of involving youth in authentic leadership roles in youth programs -- Through two projects I am investigating the practice of placing youth in leadership roles within youth programs. One is a youth leadership program in which older youth mentor younger youth. The second is a project to examine the effects of participation as a summer camp CIT (counselor-in-training).

I am accepting new PhD students for the 2013 academic year.

School Affiliations


  • University of Michigan

    PhD in Education and Psychology
  • University of Michigan

    May 2009
    MS in Psychology
  • University of Michigan

    Jul 2003
    MA in Educational Studies
  • Alma College

    May 1995
    BA in English


Recent Awards

  • Dimond Outstanding Dissertation Award

    Apr 2013

    Stanley E. and Ruth B. Dimond Outstanding Dissertation Award, University of Michigan, April 2013

  • ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award Honorable Mention

    Feb 2013

    ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award Honorable Mention, February 2013

  • Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor

    Apr 2012

    University of Michigan


Recent Presentations

  • Can we measures "quality" in complex social systems? A case study of summer camps

    Apr 2013

    Akiva, T., Sibthorp, J., & Bialeschki, M. D. (2013, April). Can we measure “quality” in complex social systems? A case study of summer camps. In Zarret, N. (Chair), The utility and limitations of assessment tools for measuring the quality of youth settings. Paper symposium conducted at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research on Child Development, Seattle, WA.

  • Youth-adult relationships in afterschool programs: The power of positive connections

    Mar 2013

    Akiva, T. (2013, March). Youth-adult relationships in afterschool programs: The power of positive connections. Invited presentation at the Pennsylvania Department of Education Extra Learning Opportunities Conference, State College, PA.

  • Positive connections

    Nov 2012

    Akiva, T. (2012, November). Positive connections. Invited presentation for APOST professional development symposium, Pittsburgh, PA.

  • Mindfulness training outcomes for special education teachers

    Jun 2012


    Akiva, T. (2012, June). Mindfulness training outcomes for special education teachers. In Eccles, J. S. (Chair), Mindfulness in education. Invited symposium at 42nd annual meeting of the Jean Piaget Society, Toronto, Canada.

  • Conference paper

    Apr 2012

    Akiva, T., & Cortina, K. S. (2012, April). Correlates for Youth Engagement in Organized Activities: Participation and Staff Instructional Practices. Paper for the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Vancouver, BC.