Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Sandra P. Thomas

Committee Members

Marian W. Roman, Robert Kronick, Carole R. Myers


The purpose of this single case study was to describe community perspectives of a service learning (SL) partnership with a single university conferring a baccalaureate nursing degree. The longevity of the partnership extended the study purpose to explain why the partnership continued and worked well. A review of nursing literature revealed descriptive accounts of programs designed to meet needs of underserved populations and student learners. However, the review also revealed a knowledge gap in nursing education science regarding the community perspectives of successful SL partnerships. This study focused on relationships with the academe partner, interactions with students and faculty, and benefits of services rendered. Using a case study approach, the investigator sought disparate sources of information including interviews with 21 community members, the primary nursing professor, and the university administrator for rural health and community partnerships. The investigator reviewed relevant documents and made observations during nine days in the community. Triangulation of multiple data sources illuminated a relationship in which key players remained committed to mutual goals beyond immediate projects. Compelling findings were the a) immersed accessibility of the primary nursing professor who lived in the community, b) competency of community members to be expert teachers and set the agenda for the university’s involvement, and c) increased social connectedness that empowered a community to improve its health. The American Association of Critical Care Nurses Synergy Model (Hardin, 2009) was useful for understanding the synergistic relationship involving community partners, student learners, and nursing faculty. However, the broader themes of a community empowered through full integration into a partnership fit with social theories explaining interactions at the macro level as well as behaviors along a pathway of shared commitment. This case demonstrated that sustained interpersonal relationships were critical to developing the community’s integral role as full partner, and the primary nursing professor was a trusted link advocating judiciously for all parties. As SL pedagogy is integrated into nursing education with an emphasis on community-based education and health at the population level, findings of this study can assist nurse educators in the development and maintenance of successful community-academe partnerships.

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