Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education/Higher Education Administration

First Advisor

John Saltmarsh

Second Advisor

Dwight E. Giles

Third Advisor

Donna K. Duffy


This study addressed the evolution of service-learning models and best practices at Miami Dade College (MDC) between 1992 and 2012. The research explored the extent of service-learning’s development at MDC during this period, the ways the mission of the community college was reflected in this development, and how service-learning responded to the student population, which comprises high numbers of racial and ethnic minorities. MDC’s best practices were analyzed using a framework informed by the literature on organizational change, institutionalization, and transformational change in higher education, with emphases on community colleges and the social elements of change. The study used a historical case-study methodology, relying on the literature around the institutionalization of service-learning to establish a conceptual framework.

The study findings revealed that MDC’s service-learning program went through a second-order change process leading to the institutionalization of service-learning. This process involved concentrated efforts to develop and implement models and best practices focusing on grant acquisition, program evaluation, professional development, and recognition and incentives for service-learning activities. Key stakeholders, namely faculty, students, administrators (especially the president), and community partners, were critical to the success and evolution of the service-learning program. During its first decade, MDC’s service-learning program concentrated on purveying best practices and garnering legitimacy through the acquisition of numerous grants and awards. As a result, service-learning became a deep, pervasive, and integrated element of campus culture. By 2012, service-learning had become a defining characteristic of the institution.

Additionally, this study identified recommendations for future direction for MDC’s service-learning program, including defining and better leveraging the connection between academic service-learning and co-curricular service, establishing an advisory board to increase integration of service-learning across the MDC community, conducting research on how racial and ethnic minorities benefit uniquely from and utilize the service-learning program at MDC, and creating an action plan based on these findings.

The results of this study evidenced ways in which the implementation of service-learning shaped the community college, how service-learning helps community colleges to better reach racial and ethnic minorities, and how the implementation of service-learning at community colleges can be a model for all institutions of higher education.


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