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The role of university Community Service-Learning partnerships in supporting socio-economically marginalized communities: The case of Nuestras Raices

Mary Catherine Mukimba, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

Abstract

Public universities contribute towards advancing social mobility for individuals. However, a discrepancy exists between how universities balance their institutional needs with the burning issues of local communities. Little research has gone into understanding how universities support socio-economically disadvantaged communities. This study, while acknowledging the excellent work done by U.S. universities in various areas, explores ways through which Community Service Learning (CSL) partnerships can help higher education better meet the development needs of under-served local communities, while meeting institutional needs. Literature suggests that universities emphasize their Research and Teaching missions over their Service mission intended for community outreach. In cases where the Service mission is recognized through CSL, universities primarily focus on projects in wealthier communities rather than those in socioeconomically depressed neighborhoods.^ This study examines the potential role of CSL partnerships in supporting the socio-economic advancement of marginalized urban communities. It explores the literature related to university CSL partnerships and their contributions to improving and sustaining development in such communities. There is scarce research focusing on CSL models that help achieve community advancement. Although the study uses the U.S. context, the concepts and models explored can be modified to suit similar development needs in less industrialized countries. ^ Mechanisms to bridge the gap between universities and respective neighborhoods through the creation of development opportunities benefiting both constituencies are highlighted using UMass/Nuestras Raices CSL partnership as a unit of analysis. Research questions include: What key conditions of Nuestras Raices farm model applied by UMass/HPN partnership foster socio-economic advancement among the inner city community members? How can conditions fostering socio-economic advancement be sustained and promoted? A qualitative research method with a case study approach was used in answering these questions. ^ Findings indicated a Culturally Integrated Model (CIM) of CSL to be effective in fostering and sustaining socio-economic advancement among impoverished communities. Community transformation is possible where a CSL partnership using the CIM provides opportunities benefiting both educational institutions and marginalized neighborhoods. Key conditions identified for fostering effectiveness were reciprocal partnership, participants' efforts and interest, strong leadership and organization, and the farm-site location. Recommendations for future improved practice of university CSL partnerships are suggested.^

Subject Area

Education, Administration|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Mary Catherine Mukimba, "The role of university Community Service-Learning partnerships in supporting socio-economically marginalized communities: The case of Nuestras Raices" (January 1, 2009). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. Paper AAI3359152.
http://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations/AAI3359152

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