Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Academic Discipline

Adult and Continuing Education

First Advisor

Thomas W. Heaney

Second Advisor

Randee Lipson Lawrence

Third Advisor

LuAnnette T. Butler


Service-learning has become a prevalent topic of discussion on college and university campuses across the United States. Students engage in internships, service activities, and mission trips to far-away places as well as neighborhoods down the street in order to gain experience and apply what they are learning in a realistic setting. The purpose of this study was to identify ways a higher education institution listens to the voice of the community in which it resides throughout its implementation of service-learning initiatives. The concept of power, as described by Lukes (2005), provided the primary theoretical framework for this case study informed by Appreciative Inquiry. Data were collected through interviews with community partners who had collaborated with the university in service-learning activities, as well as university students, faculty, and members of the senior leadership team. Additional data were collected through observations and review of institutional artifacts. The findings of this study indicated that service is an integral part of the curricular and co-curricular offerings of the institution examined. Using the major classifications of discover, dream, design, and destiny found in Appreciative Inquiry, the overarching themes which emerged from the study included issues of building trust, ameliorating misunderstandings, fulfilling both community and institutional missions, and recognizing that service is a part of a democratic society. Examining community voice in service-learning relationships is important because power and influence exerted by members of the academy could thwart the citizens they purport to serve. The findings of this study illustrated examples of positive town-gown relationships whereby institutional constituents and community partners created collaborative experiential learning which fostered benefits on multiple levels. Issues such as sustainability, applying research to practice, honoring individual and collective strengths, and adaptability to democratic social change were described as tenets of effective service-learning as well as suggested as the ideals adult educators should seek to incorporate into their daily practice.