Dissertation Dish

About The Dish

The Dissertation Dish is a collaboration between the International Association for Research on Service Learning and Community Engagement (IARSLCE), GivePulse, and LEAD California. 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 highlights 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


The Latin American University in the Society. Analysis of the Relationship Between University and Community from the Capabilities Approach for Human Development.

Carmen Monge Hernández, Ph.D, Director of Experiential Learning, UC San Diego

Co-Moderated by Maria Avila, an independent consultant, collaborative researcher, and relational organizer. Previously an Associate Professor in the Department of Social Work at California State University, Dominguez Hills; & Matias G. Flores a Ph.D. Candidate in Development Sociology at Cornell University and Chair-Elect of the IARSLCE Graduate Student Network.

Abstract: This dissertation explores two Latin American community engagement experiences through the lenses of the capabilities approach for human development at Universidad Nacional, Costa Rica, and Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Argentina. The main purpose is to comprehend their contribution toward transformative community engagement. Based on constructivist and interpretivist paradigms, this research uses multiple qualitative methods, including participant observation, interviews, discussion groups, and document analysis. It seeks to identify the most valued capabilities by the participants (students and community partners) and the most relevant institutional resources and conversion factors for their development. The main findings include the expansion of individual and collective capabilities, the confluence of personal, social, and contextual factors in their development, and proposals to promote educational change necessary to move toward transformative community engagement. This research introduces the first Latin American index to study how community engagement contributes to capabilities and sustainable human development while engaging with the Latin American community engagement [extensión universitaria] tradition and literature.

Tuesday, August 27th, 2024 from 12:00pm to 1:30pm (CT)



Dr. Carmen Monge Hernández, is an engaged scholar (extensionista) at the Universidad Nacional, Costa Rica (UNA). Lecturer and advisor of community engagement projects of the Vicerrectoría de Extensión at UNA. Ph.D. in Local Development and International Cooperation, with international concentration, at Universitat Politècnica de València, Universitat de València, and Universitat Jaume I, Spain. Economist with Master’s degrees in Management at Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica and in Development Cooperation at Universitat Politècnica València, Spain. Her themes of interest are human development, Latin American public university, community engagement (extensión universitaria) and participatory local development. She actively participates in various institutional committees on community engagement and in two international networks: Red Iberoamericana Multibien (Cyted) y la Red Centroamericana de Investigación en Investigación Crítica (RECIEC). As of 2021, she is co-producer and co-host of the program PraxisTV: UNA Extensión Crítica.


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.

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Stories from the Field: Black Service-Learning Student Experiences

Rochelle Smarr, Ed.D., Director of Experiential Learning, UC San Diego

Co-Moderated by Dr. Marisol Morales, Executive Director of the Carnegie Elective Classifications, and Dr. Elaine Ikeda, Executive Director of LEAD California

Abstract: The aim of this research study is to provide a macro picture of Black student’s experiences in service-learning through reflective semi-structured interviews (Creswell, 2015; Shah, 2020). To better understand the experiences of Black students’ service-learning experiences, a grounded research study was used to highlight themes that emerged from the data collected by participants (Charmaz, 2017; Kimball et al., 2016; Mertler, 2019). Together the conceptual frameworks of transformative learning theory and student voice theory provided a lens into how students make meaning of their service-learning experiences. By sharing their own narrative stories about what they learned (transformative learning theory) and how they learned through their service-learning experiences (student voice theory) (Cook Sather, 2002; Cook- Sather, 2006; Kiely, 2005; Matthews & Dollinger, 2022; Mezirow, 1997; Welch & Plaxton- Moore, 2019).

Dr. Rochelle Smarr

Rochelle Smarr, Ed.D., is the Director of Experiential Learning at UC San Diego, where she leads the Experiential Learning team to increase access to and support of engaged learning beyond the classroom through co-curricular activities and academic internship programs. She has held previous roles in the field of community engagement with Students First – New York, City College of New York, Cornell University and University of Pennsylvania. In 2019, she joined California State University, San Marcos as the Assistant Director for Civic Learning and later served as Director of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement before joining UC San Diego in 2023. She is an active member of CUMU and IARSLCE. Serving as the conference journal co-editor for Metropolitan Universities Journal for CUMU, along with hosting a virtual workshop series. In 2023 she was the conference chair for the annual IARSLCE conference in New Orleans, and will resume the role for the upcoming conference in 2024 to be held in San Diego.

Click here to learn more about Rochelle.


“I was Invisible to them:” An Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis of Community Engaged Researchers’ Experience of Institutional Support.

Dr. Emily Phaup, Professional Development Manager, Campus Compact

Abstract: Community engaged scholarship has gained attention as public universities begin to answer calls to return to their roots of serving the public good. The scholars at the heart of community engagement play an important role in this mission, but their experiences in the academy are not well understood. As institutional leaders endeavor to support this important work, they need more information about the ways institutional support is experienced by the faculty. Research largely advocates for institutionalization efforts and more responsive promotion and tenure systems. However, the literature has yet to investigate how these strategies for support are felt among the faculty involved, or whether other forms of support are being overlooked. A deeper understanding of the nuanced lived experiences of community engaged scholars could improve their ability to attend to the public purpose of the institution.

The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the way community engaged researchers experienced institutional support as they worked through unexpected changes associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. This research described the essence of the experience for five community engaged scholars at a public institution with a recognized legacy of community engagement. The study used a hermeneutic qualitative phenomenological approach and participant interviews to investigate the phenomenon. Participants were community engaged scholars at a broad access institution in the Pacific Northwest during a challenging time in history.

The year 2020 was marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, threats to democracy, and police violence against African Americans, among other crisis events. During these ongoing challenges, community engaged scholars persisted in their research. Their stories emphasized the nuanced experiences within their individual contexts at the same university.

Interviews with faculty found a range of experiences. Themes included feelings of inclusion or exclusion, frustration or ease, privilege or restriction, security or instability, and more. Data suggested contextual factors like institution type, disciplinary department, and type of faculty position influenced the way they experienced support. Relationships and connectedness were crucial in women’s experiences in all cases. More broadly, undifferentiated forms of support for community engaged researchers were found to be insufficient. More tailored forms of support for individuals, or groups with commonalities like women, would be a more effective approach.

Institutional leaders would do well to recognize the meaningful contributions community engaged scholars are making to the mission of the university and invest in understanding their needs. This study provides a glimpse inside the lived experiences of these faculty and offers insight into the forms of support that would be most meaningful in their work. Improving systems of support for community engaged scholars would pay off in achieving the mission of public universities: serving the communities for whom they were built.

Dr. Emily Phaup

Dr. Emily Phaup is the Professional Development Manager for Campus Compact. In this role she supports civic and community engagement practitioners seeking to enhance their skills, knowledge, and critical commitments in ways that emphasize equity and yield better outcomes for students, institutions, and communities. Emily also leads the Northwest 5 Consortium for community engaged learning, a project supported by the Mellon Foundation housed at Whitman College. Prior to joining the community engagement field, she served rural Oregon communities as an Extension Professional in positive youth development. Emily has a M.A. in Sustainable Communities from Northern Arizona University and received her Ph.D. in Education, Free-Choice Learning, from Oregon State University in 2022. As a scholar practitioner she continues to pursue research around institutional support for community engaged scholars with a particular interest in women’s experiences and the public purpose mission of land-grant institutions.


An Exploration of Two Community Advisory Boards Within Community Engagement Centers at Institutions of Higher Education

Dr. Elizabeth Cannon, Director of Community-Engaged Learning at Vassar College and the Co-PI of the Mellon-funded Community-Engaged Intensives in the Humanities Grant

Abstract: Community engagement has become an important part of the higher education landscape and, as a result, developing mutually-beneficial community-university partnerships has become a common interest for practitioners and researchers. However, building these partnerships, often distinguished by reciprocity, shared goals, and effective communication (Bringle, Games, & Malloy, 1999; Harkavy & Benson, 1998; Pompa, 2002) is a complex endeavor. The partnerships between communities and universities often involve challenges such as paternalism, unequal power, clashes in values, and often-wrought histories (Strier, 2014). As a way to support building partnerships based on mutuality, and to address some of the challenges present in the complexity of community-university partnerships, community engagement centers on college campuses have created Community Advisory Councils (CACs). While CACs have recently become a structure within the practitioner-realm of the community engagement field, the higher education research that investigates CACs is still in its infancy. Thus, through a multi-site qualitative case-study, I aim to fill the gap by comparing, contrasting, and analyzing themes about the formation, role, and responsibilities of two Community Advisory Councils housed within community engagement centers at two different institutions. I examine the successes and challenges of the CACs in building strong equitable partnerships based on reciprocity and centering community voice. In this research study, I utilize Bringle, Clayton & Price’s (2009) spectrum as a conceptual framework to assess partnerships based on three qualities: closeness, equity, and integrity (Bringle et. al, 2009). This multi-site case study both fills a large gap within the higher education and community engagement literature and helps to examine the critical components necessary to building meaningful partnerships through a Community Advisory Council.

Dr. Elizabeth Cannon

Dr. Elizabeth Cannon (she/her) identifies as a cis-white woman educator, facilitator, researcher, and practitioner within the critical community-engaged learning field. Currently, she serves as the Director of Community-Engaged Learning at Vassar College (which resides on the occupied Munsee Lenape land) and the Co-PI of the Mellon-funded Community-Engaged Intensives in the Humanities Grant. Prior to Vassar, Elizabeth served as a Senior Associate Director at Penn’s Civic House and Associate Director of the Ursinus Center for Advocacy, Responsibility and Engagement at Ursinus College. Elizabeth received her Ed.D. in Higher Education from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education with research interests that focus on critical feminism within community engagement, the role of power dynamics between institutions and communities, and best practices for centering community voice.


Partnership Experience in Service Learning Between a Private University and Community Organizations in Lebanon.

Dr. Mayada Kanj, Lecturer of Health Promotion and Community Health at the American University of Beirut

Abstract: In 2012, the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) at the American University of Beirut (AUB) adopted a SL pedagogy to reach out to underserved communities in order to enhance the learning experiences of public health students as well as improve social conditions impacting health of the population in those communities. Community sites are located in underserved areas that struggle with poverty, which is impacting health outcomes and well-being of the population living there. This research adopted a qualitative methodology to explore the partnership experience of community organizations engaged in SL with the FHS at AUB. Purposive sampling was used to identify community organizations based on set criteria and subsequently semi- structured interviews were conducted with key informants in the selected organizations and with faculty who teach SL courses.

Results suggest that the SL relationship between the faculty and the community organizations created threads for a possible network where benefits are skewed towards the academic partner. Yet, despite these inequitable conditions, community organizations chose to remain in the relationship and provided justifications for doing so. These justifications are embedded in a power dynamic between academia and community organizations where the soft power of the university impacted interactions of the faculty with the local communities.

Findings of this research cannot be interpreted outside the context of a developing country and a collectivist culture. The perception of power impacted the reaction of community respondents to the power dynamic in the going interactions. Being situated in a collectivist culture seemed to impact the acceptance of unequal relationships and in most cases, this imbalance could not be disrupted.

Dr. Mayada Kanj

Dr. Mayada Kanj (she/her) is a lecturer at the Department of Health promotion & Community Health, Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) at the American University of Beirut (AUB).

Until 2015, Mayada coordinated the Health Education Resource Unit at FHS. This entailed managing local and regional projects with UN partners (WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNESCO) as well as international collaborations with Center for Communication Programs at Johns Hopkins University & Kansas University: online Community Tool Box.
In her current post, she teaches and supervises graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in the MPH and Health Communication programs. She is a member of the Service- learning task force, which in 2012, introduced the service- learning pedagogy to FHS. She taught several service- learning courses and was able to experience first- hand the engagement of community organizations with academia. She is currently a member of the community engagement task force supervising the community engagement general education requirement for undergraduate students. Her research interests are health literacy, community university partnerships and health communication.

Mayada has an MPH, concentration in Health Behavior & Education from AUB. She received a Doctor of Education from the School of Histories, Languages & Cultures, University of Liverpool, UK in 2022.


Community-Engaged Practitioner-Scholar Professional Identity Development Through Participation In A Community Engagement Association’s Graduate Student Fellowship

Dr. Trina L. Van Schyndel, Membership Director for Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life (IA)

Abstract: When rhetoric does not match reality for higher education institutions’ commitment to community engagement, graduate students may find counterspaces to the academy are necessary and allow them to reset and reframe, collectively organize, and push back against normative socialization processes of the academy that do not serve their needs as emerging community-engaged practitioner-scholars. This basic, exploratory qualitative study examined professional identity development of community-engaged practitioner-scholars through participation in a community engagement professional associations’ graduate student fellowship – the Imagining America (IA) Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) Fellows program. From 15 interviews, six major themes emerged, which were divided into two sections. The first section, the people, focused on participant backgrounds (i.e. personal/social identities, characteristics, and life experiences) and ways of work as community-engaged practitioner-scholars. The second section, the setting, focused on tension experienced within the academy during and after graduate school, as well as the experience and development of new conceptualizations (i.e., revelations of the mind – or head), new relationships (i.e., affirmations of the heart), and new practices in their work (i.e., transformations of the hands) through participation in the IA PAGE Fellows program. While socialization (Weidman et al., 2001) toward community engagement did occur through IA and the PAGE, these spaces also functioned in a way similar to counterspaces (Case & Hunter 2012) and influenced participants’ professional identity development through new revelations, affirmation, and transformation in the face of oppressive and deficit-oriented narratives toward community-engaged work that continue to perpetuate academia.

Dr. Trina L. Van Schyndel

Dr. Trina L. Van Schyndel (she/her) is the Membership Director for Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life (IA), where she engages and supports scholars, artists, designers, humanists, and organizers internal and external to the IA network who seek to imagine, study, and enact a more just and liberatory “America” and world. She also manages and serves as the PI on the grant-funded IA Joy of Giving Something (JGS) Fellows program which aims to elevate photography and digital media as pathways for undergraduate students, in particular first generation college students, to pursue their careers and to make a difference in their communities. She currently serves on the IARSLCE Graduate Student Network (GradSN) Steering Committee and previously served as the Chair of the IARSLCE GradSN and the GradSN representative on the IARSLCE Board. Van Schyndel received her doctoral degree in Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education from Michigan State University, where she is also completing a Graduate Certificate in Community Engagement. Her recent publications and presentations focus on understanding and supporting community-engaged graduate students and community-engaged boundary-spanners in higher education.


“When There’s Good, There’s Good. When There’s Harm, There’s Harm”: Diverse Voices on Community Engagement

Carmine Perrotti, Assistant Director of Community-Engaged Scholarship at the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University

Abstract: Service learning and community engagement (SLCE) have become near ubiquitous across U.S. higher education. While much scholarship has demonstrated positive student learning outcomes of the pedagogy and practice, there has been unequal consideration towards understanding the experiences of communities involved. Because “the community” has been largely missing from SLCE scholarship, this community-based case study, drawing on theories of whiteness and neoliberalism, aimed to engaged a multivocal account of how one community described and understood their experiences with SLCE by one college. As a result of the community knowledge and contributions shared, this dissertation aimed to (re)imagine more equitable possibilities for the future of SLCE with those who have often been left out of research.

Carmine Perrotti

Carmine Perrotti (he, him, his) is Assistant Director of Community-Engaged Scholarship at the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University, where he works to support students and faculty interested in the integration of academic study with community-engaged learning and research. Carmine also is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Education at Brown University and a faculty member at College Unbound. Carmine received his Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and a Master in Public Policy from American University.


Organization Development for an Engaged Campus: Assessing Narratives and Architecture to Direct Future Change

Dr. Jamilah Ducar, Executive Director of the Engaged Campus, University of Pittsburgh

Abstract: At the intersection of the fields of engagement and organization development lie the strategies, structures, and processes of community-engaged praxis. This qualitative inquiry focused on the experiences of community engagement professionals at an urban, state-related research university. This study provided an understanding of the activities that contribute to the institutionalization of engagement through the lens of the architectural approach. The architectural approach addresses the key aspects of organization development, including the institutional conditions, design, and infrastructure that interconnect and integrate with narratives across different levels of the university as a system. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the institution’s engaged architecture through semistructured interviews, surveys, and artifact analysis. The qualitative practices aligned with the premises and practices of dialogic organization development. Findings include narratives that emphasize the importance of relationships, the values of the engagement profession, conflict management as a key tool, and the challenges found in disconnects from the strategies or architecture that clarify and support institutional community engagement architecture. These narratives intersect with critical context and institutional praxis that suggests a future organizational change model that institutionalizes community engagement through open-ended inquiry and artifacts that advance key aspects of the practitioner experience.

Dr. Jamilah Ducar

Dr. Jamilah Ducar began her career in higher education at the University of Pittsburgh in 2017 after a 10 year career as a human services practitioner and nonprofit consultant. Now the Executive Director of the Engaged Campus, she enables Pitt to be an engaged campus and anchor institution by ensuring Pitt is a visible and responsive collaborator within its local communities. She serves the field nationally as chair of the Place Based Justice Network and as an advisor of Weave: The Social Fabric Project of The Aspen Institute. Jamilah received a Doctor of Education degree as part of the inaugural Urban Education cohort at the University of Pittsburgh, a Master of Public Management from Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Leadership from Duquesne University.


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.

Dr. Lauren A. Wendling

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.


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).