Colleges and universities have embraced the importance of community engagement, not only as a tool for student development but also, as a responsibility of the institution to address societal needs and problems. Research is lacking, however, on how institutions with varying missions, histories and cultures perceive their role in the community, what motivates an institution’s commitment to community engagement and what influences the focus of those initiatives.
The qualitative study investigates the external and internal influences that may impact an institution’s commitment to community engagement, particularly why and how a college or university responds to community needs.
The comparative study juxtaposes community engagement in four very distinct institutions within the state of Arkansas. It is the first known qualitative study that examined community engagement from the perspective of campus leadership, faculty, staff and students from a diverse sample of institutions including historically Black, religiously affiliated, state supported, private, selective, open-enrollment, rural and urban.
The researcher conducted both structured and semi-structured interviews with campus administrators, faculty, staff and students; observed community engagement activities; and, reviewed institutional materials to better understand the history, culture and mission of each institution as well as identify influences on the commitment to and focus of community engagement.
The primary research question that guided the study was: What influences a college’s or a university’s commitment to and focus of community engagement?
The study found that there are multiple influences on an institution’s commitment to and focus of community engagement. The student demographic and interests of the campus leader were found to play important roles in determining an institution’s commitment to and focus of community engagement. The importance of recognition of community engagement efforts by outside professional organizations did not seem to be an influence when determining how and why an institution engages in the community. Recognition by the community that a need was being met, as well as evidence of developing student awareness of community needs, seemed to have a stronger impact on how and why an institution engages in the community.
|Advisor:||Barrett, T. Gregory|
|Commitee:||Gilleland, Diane S., Hemphill, Michael R., Hunt, Andrew L.|
|School:||University of Arkansas at Little Rock|
|School Location:||United States -- Arkansas|
|Source:||DAI-A 71/09, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Higher Education Administration, Educational leadership, Higher education|
|Keywords:||College, Commitment, Community engagement, Influences, Public service, University|
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