Assisting communities through university partnerships: A study of the program in nonprofits, universities, communities, and schools

David Howard Grossman, University of Pennsylvania


Universities' work with their surrounding communities has increased substantially during the last several years. The types of involvement have been varied, including traditional community service programs, technical assistance for schools and community organizations, and healthcare initiatives, among others. The nature of the partnerships has broadened the definition of a university's role, and in so doing has elevated the dialogue about and importance of higher education's function in society. As such, the growth in the number and range of these collaborative activities has given rise to the need for research to evaluate the design, implementation, and outcomes of current and future initiatives. This study adds to the literature through a review of several aspects of one such multifaceted initiative at the University of Pennsylvania, the Program in Nonprofits, Universities, Communities, and Schools (PNUCS). The primary research questions concern how effectively the program addressed the needs of community organizations involved in the initiative through activities including teaching, research, and technical assistance. Using largely qualitative methods employing questionnaires, interviews, and meeting and program observation, among other data, the study examines strategies used to identify community assets and needs, establish programmatic goals, and address needs of community organizations and their leadership. The study also seeks to identify and understand changes the PNUCS initiative may have stimulated in the community organizations and in the university. The findings from this study suggest that some tangible gains relative to the program's goals were realized by both community and university stakeholders in the PNUCS initiative. Still, real challenges existed for both the program's implementation and ultimate impacts. Some suggestions for policy and practice include (1) establishing, with university and community stakeholders, a clear set of programmatic parameters from the outset of the initiative; (2) developing and sustaining ongoing relationships with community partners before, during and after the initiative's lifespan, and; (3) weaving ongoing assessment and evaluation into the fabric of the initiative, allowing for mid-course programmatic corrections based on evidence.

Subject Area

Higher education|Urban planning|Area planning & development

Recommended Citation

Grossman, David Howard, "Assisting communities through university partnerships: A study of the program in nonprofits, universities, communities, and schools" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3138014.