Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 5-5-2023


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Educational Studies (General Education)


School of Education

Committee Chair

Dr. Rick McCown

Committee Member

Dr. Gretchen Generett

Committee Member

Dr. Amy Olson


community engagement, democratic listening, border crossing, accompaniment, boundary spanning, social capital, critical pedagogies, insubordinate spaces, after-school programs, cooperative friendships


This dissertation focuses on identifying essential characteristics of initiatives that build cooperative relationships and solidarity to advance democratically engaged community-campus partnerships. As such, it involves understanding the conditions that undermine these relationships, the critical practices that strengthen them, and the role of community engagement professionals in facilitating them. Fundamentally, this research is interested in explicating what worked and did not within Leon Ford's Voices Project@Duquesne University, an after-school mentoring program that evolved into a community-engaged writing initiative and dialogic space. This qualitative research project utilizes modified appreciative inquiry questions. Emerging from organizational studies, appreciative inquiry is an asset-based approach to facilitating institutional change (Coghlan et al., 2003). The process begins with an analysis of the elements of an organization that are most effective and then considers how those positive attributes might be expanded. As Ashford and Parker explain, appreciative inquiry functions through a process of “discovery and valuing, envisioning, dialogue and co-constructing the future” (2001, p.4). The analysis showed that participants found the vulnerability and resultant empathy shared to be most personally and professionally impactful. These sentiments contributed to a sense of community within the experience and allowed for difficult conversations requiring deep listening that spurred individual and collective action within and beyond the group.