University-Community Partnerships: A Case Study of Institutional Models of Strategic Engagement and Cross-Sector Collaboration

Katherine A Feely, University of Pennsylvania


Over the past thirty years, community engagement by universities has become an important approach for teaching, research, and learning in higher education. Capitalizing on their valuable relationships with a wide range of stakeholders, university–community partnerships can leverage campus and community knowledge, connections, and resources to address pressing social issues and advance the common good. The purpose of this study was to explore the catalysts, challenges, and configurations of institutional level university–community partnerships in three Jesuit higher education institutions. Using a case study design, the research approach included semi-structured interviews, document review, and observation to examine the ways community partnerships were initiated and structured in response to community issues. The findings of this study suggest that 1). In responding to catalysts in the community, new organizational structures were necessary within a university in order to respond to new needs and engage the community in new ways. 2). University-community partnerships created new networks of relationships within universities and outside of them. Leveraging these relationships, may address overcome the limitations of siloed or disconnected efforts leading to more effective and integrated institutional engagement. 3). Greater attention should be given to strategic institutional cross-sector collaborations that are necessary if partnerships are intended to bring about social change. Each university in the study demonstrated engagement in cross-sector networked partnerships that resulted in more intentional, institutional, and strategic engagement. More strategic and integrated approaches to community engagement offers a crucial way to address the striking challenges of these times and leverage the innovation, creativity, knowledge, and collaborative networks required to address the challenges of the day at the scale at which they exist.

Subject Area

Pedagogy|Educational leadership|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Feely, Katherine A, "University-Community Partnerships: A Case Study of Institutional Models of Strategic Engagement and Cross-Sector Collaboration" (2020). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI28027054.