2014 ASEE Annual Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana.

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Since 2000, research in service-learning has started to investigate partnerships and community voice, but this research trend has received little attention among engineering education scholars. This study aims to fill this gap by developing a richer understanding of community-university partnerships in engineering community engagement from the perspectives of academic programs and served communities. In part inspired by the existing service-learning literature, this study addresses the question: Why are individuals and local community organizations involved in engineering service-learning partnerships? This study utilizes a single case study design, with data collection including in-depth interviews with community partners, faculty and program administrators (n=11) at a well established service-learning program within the US. All interviews were transcribed and coded thematically. Deductive codes were identified based on a review of three empirical studies examining the motivation of community organizations involved in service-learning programs. An inductive analysis was also used to discern new themes. This paper also compares preliminary results that are similar to other non-engineering service-learning partnerships. The most recognized reason for involvement of the participants is to support engineering students with their education. Many of the community and advisors stated that they enjoyed the experience of service learning, and the organization benefited directly from the partnership. Overall, this work helps clarify and address misunderstandings that engineering programs and community organizations may have relative to partner motivations. Based on this research the authors suggest that engineering programs increase emphasis on learning about the community organization within their learning objectives, since it is deemed important by the community partners and critical for the final outcome of the project.


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