Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 2012


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program for Education Leaders (IDPEL)


School of Education

Committee Chair

Connie Moss

Committee Member

Rodney Hopson

Committee Member

Peter Miller

Committee Member

Patti Clayton


Community-university engagement, Democratic engagement, Explanatory case study, Partnerships, Qualitative


Despite calls for concerted, two-way engagement and for the development of reciprocal partnerships between institutions of higher education (IHE's) and their communities, IHE's continue to implement a disparate menu of activities that prove largely ineffective at addressing society's most challenging social and environmental problems. A relatively new conception of engagement lays out a framework by which IHE's engage with communities in democratic ways. Democratic engagement values inclusive, reciprocal problem-oriented work that brings together university and community stakeholders as co-generators of knowledge and solutions. The resulting democratically engaged partnerships position diverse members to take on roles as collaborators and problem solvers. They are mutually transformed through the processes of reciprocation, power diffusion, and knowledge generation.

How these democratically oriented roles and processes emerge and come to be enacted is unknown. Neither the literature on democratic engagement nor that on community-university partnerships addresses this gap. This dissertation study purposefully selected a case of community-university partnership that has a high degree of democratic engagement. Through interviews, observation, and document review, qualitative evidence was collected of the ways in which the roles and processes of democratically engaged partnerships emerged and were enacted. Atlas.ti 6.2 was used to code and retrieve themes related to democratic and technocratic engagement, stakeholder roles and processes, and the emergence and application of roles and processes.

Understanding how democratically oriented roles and processes emerge and are adopted is critical to building democratically engaged partnerships that support systems of democratic engagement. If we do not know how to be democratic within our partnerships, and if we cannot teach others, we will not be able to answer the calls for more purposeful, reciprocal engagement with our communities.