Dissertation Dish

About The Dish

The Dissertation Dish is a collaboration between the International Association for Research on Service Learning and Community Engagement (IARSLCE), Imagining America, and LEAD California (formerly California Campus Compact). Dissertation Dish webinars are meant for all audiences, from seasoned scholars to practitioners to graduate students, as well as journal editors or conference organizers seeking scholars to present the most current and innovative research.  Dissertation Dish will highlight quality emerging research in the field of service learning and community engagement by providing a platform for recent doctoral degree recipients to share their work more broadly. We invite you to join us!

Elaine K. Ikeda


Evaluating Engaged Research in Promotion and Tenure: Not Everything that Counts Can Be Counted

Lauren A. Wendling (she/her), Director of Institutional Success, Collaboratory

Abstract: As institutions adapt to meet the increasing needs of their communities, faculty must choose where and how to employ their time and expertise. To encourage partnerships between institutions and their communities, academic reward structures must be designed in ways that support those who choose to leverage their expertise, resources, and time to engage with community in meaningful and mutually beneficial ways. This study investigated how school- and department-level promotion and tenure committees not only define and understand faculty’s engaged research, but how they evaluate it. This study explored what goes into making evaluative decisions, if/how committees utilize tools for evaluation, and how evaluative decisions are made. In this single case multi-site qualitative study 12 participants across five R1 institutions classified as engaged by the Carnegie Foundation, participated in semi-structured interviews. All participants were tenured, engaged scholars with experience serving on a school- and/or department-level promotion and tenure review committee.

Dec 1, 2022 12:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)



Dr. Lauren A. Wendling serves as the Director of Institutional Success at Collaboratory, where she works with institutions to leverage data to move the needle on issues important to their campuses and communities. Lauren earned her Ph.D. in Higher Education from Indiana University Bloomington, with a focus on urban education. Lauren’s scholarship focuses on the recognition and evaluation of engaged scholarship within promotion and tenure and the institutionalization of community engagement.


If you completed your dissertation in the past two years on a topic that relates to community engagement and service learning, and you wish to be considered as a possible presenter for an upcoming Dissertation Dish webinar, please click the button below to share information about your dissertation research. If you are selected, you will be contacted to coordinate a presentation.

Submit for Consideration


On Becoming a People’s College: An Appreciative Inquiry

Sean Crossland, Assistant Professor of Higher Education Leadership at Utah Valley University

Abstract: Community colleges play a significant role in the higher education landscape. Open access missions and diverse student bodies are often used to indicate that community colleges are democratizing higher education. This study begins with broad questions about what it means to do the work of democracy at a community college. De Anza College in Cupertino, California was selected as the research site for its rich history and national reputation for equity and civic engagement. Appreciative Inquiry was deemed an ideal method to both illuminate the complexity of and advance the work of equity, democracy, and justice at De Anza College in Cupertino, California. The findings are disseminated in a multiple article format dissertation. The first article, On Becoming the People’s Students is coauthored by Angélica Esquivil, Rex Zhang, and Ben Vo. This participatory action research project sought to explore what De Anza means to students, where students have felt a sense of connection and and where they might find more connection. Findings from this study explore the ways in which students experience belonging at De Anza in hopes of informing changes to institutional architecture toward empowering students. Next, On Becoming a People’s College: Hidden Curriculum, is an ethnographic account of the author’s immersive fieldwork project. This paper explores differing institutional identities and organizational characteristics present at De Anza. This paper offers levers of change to enhance institutional climate with a specific emphasis in students’ civic identity. The third article, On Becoming Ergonomic: A Model for A People’s College, offers a conceptual model representing the best of what De Anza hopes to be and an opportunity for community colleges to apply these findings at institutional, programmatic, or course levels. Finally, On Becoming a Publicly Engaged Scholar at a People’s College, is an autoethnography of the author’s experience during the fieldwork and returning to his home institution as a community engagement professional. As a whole work, this dissertation advances an intentional metaphoric shift of a People’s College to center the most important element of community colleges: the people. Readers are encouraged to interpret, refute, reanalyze, and apply these offerings on their own terms.

Sean Crossland

Sean Crossland is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education Leadership at Utah Valley University. Sean focuses on the public purpose of higher education in his teaching and scholarship. He earned a PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy from the University of Utah, MA in Community Leadership from Westminster College, and BA in Psychology from Iowa Wesleyan College. Sean has teaching experience with undergraduate and graduate community engaged courses at a community college, a research-intensive flagship university, and a liberal arts teaching. Prior to joining the faculty at UVU, Sean was an administrator for community college community engagement and student leadership.  In his free time, Sean likes working on his house and garden and being outdoors with his wife and dog.


Engaging Sameness: A Phenomenological Study Of The Community Engagement Experiences Of Latinx Students At A Hispanic Serving Institution

Dr. Marisol Morales, Executive Director of Carnegie Elective Classifications, American Council on Education (ACE)

Abstract: Demographic shifts occurring in the United States are and will continue to have a profound impact on the composition of the student body at institutions of higher education. Hispanic Serving Institutions have a long history with community engagement but have not had high visibility in the service learning and community engagement field. Subsequently, the field of service learning and community and civic engagement needs to position itself to design, implement, and reflect upon its practices to serve a more diverse student body. This dissertation explores the community engagement experiences of Latinx students at a Hispanic Serving Institution. Utilizing interview data and drawing upon critical pedagogies, my dissertation offers two engagement frameworks: Asset Based Critical Engagement and the Prism of Liberatory Engagement. Asset Based Critical Engagement seeks to leverage the strengths, talents, and skills of students, faculty, and community in a way to create classrooms and community spaces that critically analyze and interrogate systems of inequality. The Prism of Liberatory Engagement invites practitioners to create liberatory spaces for self-determination and self-actualization in their classrooms by inviting and validating different ways of knowing, reducing barriers, and kindling compassion and respect for self and others.

Dr. Marisol Morales

Dr. Morales is the Executive Director of the Carnegie Elective Classifications, American Council on Education (ACE), providing conceptual leadership and operational oversight to the elective classifications’ work.

Prior to this role, she was the Vice President for Network Leadership at Campus Compact, from 2018-2022. Morales was the founding Director of the Office of Civic and Community Engagement at the University of La Verne from 2013-2018 and the Associate Director of the Steans Center for Community-based Service Learning and Community Service Studies at DePaul University from 2005-2013.  In 2020, she was appointed as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Community-Engaged Scholarship at the University of Central Florida and also serves as an adjunct faculty in the ENLACE Higher Education Master’s program at Northeastern Illinois University. Morales sits on the editorial board of the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, on the editorial advisory board of Liberal Education, a publication of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and on the board of the International Association for Research on Service Learning and Community Engagement (IARSLCE). Dr. Morales holds a BA in Latin American/Latino Studies and a MS/MS in International Public Service Management both from DePaul University. She earned her Ed.D in Organizational Leadership at the University of La Verne in 2020.


Engaging Feminism, Transforming Institutions: How Community Engagement Professionals Employ Critical Feminist Praxis to Re-Imagine and Re-Shape the Public Purpose of Higher Education

Dr. Star Plaxton-Moore, Director of Community-Engaged Learning, Department of Organization and Leadership, The Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good, University of San Francisco

Abstract: This qualitative grounded theory study elucidates how community engagement professionals (CEPs) employ critical feminist praxis to play an integral role in re-imagining and re-shaping the public purpose of higher education to be more authentic and impactful. Through purposive sampling, and in alignment with principles of critical feminist methodology and participatory action research, seven CEPs participated in individual interviews and co-visioning conversations with their community partners. Thematic analysis of interview transcripts and observations illuminated a meta-theme of critical feminism as an aspirational praxis, six deductive thematic findings aligned with the elements of adrienne maree brown’s (2017) Emergent Strategy framework, and four additional themes of mentorship, intersectional power analysis, disrupting the status quo, and reverence for community wisdom. Findings served as the foundation for a new conceptual framework, the Ecosystem of Critical Feminist Praxis for Community Engagement Professionals. The framework has implications for CEP professional development programming, CEP practice, and future research and scholarship in the community engagement field.


Dr. Plaxton-Moore is the Director of Community-Engaged Learning. Star directs institutional support for community-engaged courses and oversees public service programs for undergraduates, including the Public Service and Community Engagement Minor. She implements an annual Community-Engaged Learning and Teaching Fellowship program for USF faculty, and other professional development offerings that bring together faculty and community partners as co-learners. Her scholarship focuses on faculty development for community-engaged teaching and scholarship, student preparation, assessment of civic learning outcomes, and community engagement in institutional culture and practice. Star holds an MEd from George Washington University and an EdD in organizational leadership from the University of San Francisco.


A Framework for Justice-Centering Relationships and Understanding Impact in Higher Education Community Engagement

Dr. Melissa Quan, winner of the 2021 IARSLCE Dissertation of the Year Award, Director of the Center for Social Impact at Fairfield University

Abstract: This grounded theory study centered community partner voices in defining impact in campus-community partnerships. Relationships as facilitators of impact and as impacts in and of themselves emerged as central themes. The ideal impact described by many community partners was a transformed relationship between higher education and the community, such that colleges and universities recognized their place, roles, and responsibilities as part of the community rather than apart from it. Themes from the data led to the development of the Justice-Centering Relationships Framework, which includes two paradigms for understanding community impact in higher education community engagement – Plug-and-Play and Justice-Centering Relationships – that are bridged by a Reframing process.


Dr. Quan is Director of the Center for Social Impact at Fairfield University where she has worked since 2002. As director, she leads the strategic growth and development of academic community engagement. Melissa completed her Master’s in Education at Fairfield University with a concentration on service learning and civic education in 2005 and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Higher Education Administration at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Melissa served as interim Executive Director of Connecticut Campus Compact from 2008-2009 and later as a Research Fellow with Campus Compact’s Community-Engaged Professionals project. She has several publications that focus on professional development within the field of Higher Education Community Engagement, institutional change, and community-engaged teaching and learning. Melissa is an alumnus of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (1998-1999) and currently serves on the Board of Directors with RYASAP (Regional Adult and Youth Social Action Partnership).