University and Community Partnerships: Phenomenological Study Exploring Participants' Experiences and Perceptions of Effectiveness and Sustainability

University and Community Partnerships: Phenomenological Study Exploring Participants' Experiences and Perceptions of Effectiveness and Sustainability

Author: 
Hanna Gebretensae
Program of study: 
Ed.D./CI
Abstract: 
University and community partnerships (UCPs) have gradually become the impetus for broadening the missions of higher education institutions and experiential learning, and for revitalizing communities to build on their assets and address their challenges through several avenues, including service-learning, engaged scholarship, and civic and community engagement. Yet there is little empirical evidence on the lived experiences of those involved UCPs on factors contributing to effective and sustainable collaborations; and a substantial knowledge gap on how UCPs develop systems, processes, and shared goals to engage members equitably and sustain progress over time. This qualitative, phenomenological research explored key characteristics of UCPs and factors that may contribute to effective and sustainable partnerships between a private college and a community in Boston, Massachusetts, as perceived by 25 college and community members. Four major themes emerged from the data analysis: (a) community engagement, (b) partnership features, (c) leadership, and (d) impact—mutual benefits and reciprocity. The study finding revealed the importance of employing an extensive community-engagement process, advancing leadership quality, and integrating key features of an effective and sustainable collaboration such as strength-based approaches, communication, openness, and flexibility to result in a reciprocal and mutually beneficial partnership.
Dedication: 
This doctoral dissertation is dedicated to my parents, Mehret Haile and Telahun Adungna, and to my late uncle Temesgen Haile, who taught me to believe in myself, to value education, and use it to make a difference in the world. I also dedicate it to my sister, Dr. Azeb Telahun Eyob, who has always supported me with my academic pursuits. A special dedication to my beloved husband, Tesfazgi, and children, Liat, Daniom, and Tommie, for whom I aspire to be a role model and push to aim high. You can accomplish anything you set your mind on.
Acknowledgements: 
This dissertation is the result of a collaborative effort, and I would not have completed it alone. I appreciate the support from my mentor, Dr. Josephine Haur, whose guidance and attention has been priceless and allowed me to succeed. I acknowledge her ongoing support, motivation, and enthusiasm to see me through the completion of my doctoral degree. I specifically thank Dr. William Roper and Dr. Sharon Cronin, who stood by me, encouraged me, and gave me their invaluable feedback throughout my doctoral journey. I thank my husband, Tesfazgi Gebretensae, for his love and support in every way, for taking on more responsibilities as a parent, and for helping me overcome all the barriers that could have prevented me from completing my studies—for being the rock in my life. I appreciate my children, Liat, Daniom, and Tommie, for being patient and for believing in me. I extend my deepest gratitude to friends and colleagues who encouraged me, pushed me, engaged in discussing my research project and findings, and supported me throughout the whole process.