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The Institutionalization of University-Community Engagement: Developing Uniform Metrics for Assessment

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Title: The Institutionalization of University-Community Engagement: Developing Uniform Metrics for Assessment
Author(s): Menendez, Carrie E.
Advisor(s): Perry, David
Contributor(s): Hoch, Charles; Cox, David; Colignon, Richard; Mossberger, Karen
Department / Program: Urban Planning and Policy
Graduate Major: Urban Planning and Policy
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Chicago
Degree: PhD, Doctor of Philosophy
Genre: Doctoral
Subject(s): university-community partnerships engagement institutional logic strategic planning university strategic planning
Abstract: University-community engagement rhetoric has been widely accepted and embedded in urban university mission statements and strategic documents across the United States. However, twenty years after the beginning of the “engagement movement,” universities are still struggling to fully institutionalize engagement. This dissertation used exploratory mixed-methods research to identify and assess “engagement” at urban universities and to clarify to what extent engagement strategies are truly embedded and institutionally aligned. This study provides a framework for translating the construct of “engagement” into quantifiable components, including select variables focusing on (1) the internal structure (organization, resource allocation, planning, and strategizing) of universities and (2) the agency (practices, partnerships, and value from engagement efforts) that occurs on a day-to-day basis. These variables are examined through an in-depth survey about engagement efforts at urban universities across the country. Analysis of the data determined that engagement mission and strategies are in place; however, many universities could not define how the mission is materialized in university culture, structure, or resource allocation due to the dearth and infancy of existing metrics; the lack of resources for data collection; and the complexity of university-community engagement. To fully investigate the institutionalization of engagement, six in-depth case studies were completed in three cities—Atlanta, Cleveland, and Tacoma. The case studies illustrated that each university varies in its adaptation of engagement rhetoric, strategic choices, and implementation of programs and activities. Additionally, analysis of the qualitative data revealed three main hindrances to institutionalizing engagement and plausible solutions to overcome these issues. First, intentions described in university mission statements and strategic documents are rarely, fully realized. Thus, the strategic planning process and supporting documents at universities should explain the explicit resources and structural changes required to support its goals. Second, universities are multi-leveled, siloed, and inherently decentralized which prohibits coherent institutionalization; consequently, administrators must work with each university subgroup to plan and assist in implementing how they will internalize and assess university-wide strategies. Lastly, universities are pluralistic institutions, functioning with multiple, competing logics; therefore, universities must clearly and distinctly define who they are and attempt to communicate their mission and strategic intent and choices.
Issue Date: 2015-10-21
Genre: thesis
Rights Information: Copyright 2015 Carrie E. Menendez
Date Available in INDIGO: 2017-10-22
Date Deposited: 2015-08

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