Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Mary Woods Scherr, PhD, Director; Johanna S. Hunsaker, PhD; Elizabeth C. O'Connell, PhD


communication skills, community service learning, higher education, Interpersonal relationships, Leadership studies, student development, student leaders


Since the mid-1980s, leaders in higher education have promoted the resurgence of student service linked with learning, but limited research exists on expectations or outcomes for these students or for the communities they serve. The literature review revealed that students' experiences of community service leadership had been a previously unexplored phenomenon. This study investigated the experiences of college students as community service leaders over a two-year period at two universities. According to data generated by four case studies, these leaders perceived significant personal changes in themselves as being different from changes they experienced when they volunteered. They grappled with their responses to societal problems and reflected on their relationships with people, of widely diverse cultures, whom they served. Participants improved communication and organizational skills while learning about societal issues and community agencies. Leaders examined their perceptions of those receiving service and also of the volunteers serving the community through university programs. Interpersonal relationships with other students as well as service recipients challenged leaders to reflect not only upon their own unrecognized stereotypes but also on their continued growth toward appreciating diversity. Leaders questioned the amount of influence or impact they had made on other students. Some discovered they preferred giving direct service instead of assuming program responsibility. Intense experiences of the participants affected their current and future decision-making about community service commitments and careers, and also on what they read and discussed. Data for this study were gathered from archival sources, surveys, questionnaires, journals, and focus group interviews. Several differences existed between the two university programs; such as, the program longevity, funding sources, and student leader autonomy. Issues regarding community service program implementation emerged, including types and amount of advising given to community service leaders and agency receptivity to students giving service. Impact on both universities and the broader communities convinced student leaders that they could make a difference. Being a leader in university community service programs stimulated some participants to plan future community leadership; all felt challenged to assume responsibility as citizens in our complex world.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access