Dissertation Dish: An Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis of Community Engaged Researchers' Experience of Institutional Support

Thursday, February 1st, 2024 from 2:30pm to 4:00pm (CT)


LEAD California, IARSLCE and GivePulse are proud to announce our next speaker:

Dr. Emily Phaup
, Professional Development Manager at Campus Compact

Our Next Speaker: 

Dr. Emily Phaup is the Professional Development Manager for Campus Compact. In this role she supports civic and community engagement practitioners seeking to enhance their skills, knowledge, and critical commitments in ways that emphasize equity and yield better outcomes for students, institutions, and communities. Emily also leads the Northwest 5 Consortium for community engaged learning, a project supported by the Mellon Foundation housed at Whitman College. Prior to joining the community engagement field, she served rural Oregon communities as an Extension Professional in positive youth development. Emily has a M.A. in Sustainable Communities from Northern Arizona University and received her Ph.D. in Education, Free-Choice Learning, from Oregon State University in 2022. As a scholar practitioner she continues to pursue research around institutional support for community engaged scholars with a particular interest in women's experiences and the public purpose mission of land-grant institutions.


Title: “I was Invisible to them:” An Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis of Community Engaged Researchers’ Experience of Institutional Support.

Community engaged scholarship has gained attention as public universities begin to answer calls to return to their roots of serving the public good. The scholars at the heart of community engagement play an important role in this mission, but their experiences in the academy are not well understood. As institutional leaders endeavor to support this important work, they need more information about the ways institutional support is experienced by the faculty. Research largely advocates for institutionalization efforts and more responsive promotion and tenure systems. However, the literature has yet to investigate how these strategies for support are felt among the faculty involved, or whether other forms of support are being overlooked. A deeper understanding of the nuanced lived experiences of community engaged scholars could improve their ability to attend to the public purpose of the institution.

The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the way community engaged researchers experienced institutional support as they worked through unexpected changes associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. This research described the essence of the experience for five community engaged scholars at a public institution with a recognized legacy of community engagement. The study used a hermeneutic qualitative phenomenological approach and participant interviews to investigate the phenomenon. Participants were community engaged scholars at a broad access institution in the Pacific Northwest during a challenging time in history.

The year 2020 was marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, threats to democracy, and police violence against African Americans, among other crisis events. During these ongoing challenges, community engaged scholars persisted in their research. Their stories emphasized the nuanced experiences within their individual contexts at the same university.

Interviews with faculty found a range of experiences. Themes included feelings of inclusion or exclusion, frustration or ease, privilege or restriction, security or instability, and more. Data suggested contextual factors like institution type, disciplinary department, and type of faculty position influenced the way they experienced support. Relationships and connectedness were crucial in women’s experiences in all cases. More broadly, undifferentiated forms of support for community engaged researchers were found to be insufficient. More tailored forms of support for individuals, or groups with commonalities like women, would be a more effective approach.

Institutional leaders would do well to recognize the meaningful contributions community engaged scholars are making to the mission of the university and invest in understanding their needs. This study provides a glimpse inside the lived experiences of these faculty and offers insight into the forms of support that would be most meaningful in their work. Improving systems of support for community engaged scholars would pay off in achieving the mission of public universities: serving the communities for whom they were built.

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