First Advisor

Douglas Morgan

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Public Administration and Policy


Public Administration




Community and college, Service learning, Universities and colleges -- Departments -- Social policy



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, vii, 253 pages)


Change in American higher education is occurring at a rapid pace. The increasing reemergence of civic or community engagement as a key component in the overall landscape of American higher is emblematic of that change. Academic departments play a critical role in higher education change, including institutionalizing community engagement on campuses. Yet, designing a way of measuring community engagement specifically at the level of the academic department has not been undertaken.

Based on advice from national expert/key informant interviews and the recognition of the importance of the role of academic departments in the overall institutionalization of community engagement in higher education, this study addresses a methodological gap in the literature concerning the measurement of community engagement. Several instruments have been developed primarily for institution-wide application, and some have been applied to academic units including colleges, schools, departments and programs. This study employs a grounded theory research strategy to develop and test a self-assessment rubric solely for use in academic departments.

To ascertain the utility and validity of the rubric, this study pilot tests the explanatory framework in twelve social science departments located in five, geographically-diverse American universities. A secondary purpose of the study is to initiate an exploration of the potential use of institutional theory to more completely understand the constitutive role of the academic unit in the institutional transformation process.

The research confirms the utility and validity of the departmental engagement self-assessment rubric. Additionally, the study categorizes and displays via histograms six overarching dimensions by level of support for community engagement for each of the twelve test departments. Finally, this research recommends instrumental as well as substantive areas for future research, including those that better connect institutional theory with efforts to embed civic engagement in the mission of traditional academic departments.


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