Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science & Public Administration

First Advisor

William C. Bosher

Second Advisor

Stephen Gottfrendson

Third Advisor

Nancy Stutts

Fourth Advisor

Kelly Lockeman


The report, A Crucible Moment, published in 2012 by the National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement described a crisis in higher education surrounding the lack of civic learning and engagement opportunities for students. This crisis has led to decreased political participation and a general lack of knowledge in civics education (National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement, 2012). Educating students for citizenship in America’s colleges and universities will assist with sustaining the country’s democracy by engendering a sense of civic responsibility in young adults that will last throughout their lifetime. This qualitative case study examined the relationship between two institutions of higher education (IHEs) and AmeriCorps programs to determine how the partnerships operated and whether they addressed the recommendations for higher education cited in A Crucible Moment.

IHEs are using A Crucible Moment as a guiding document to think about civic learning and democratic engagement. While many are in the process of creating new initiatives and programs to address those issues, this study focuses on two existing programs that may provide a framework for strategically integrating civic engagement into higher education using a readily available government resource—AmeriCorps. With recent budget cuts impacting education, it is difficult for many IHEs to obtain additional funding to support initiatives directly related to student learning. As a result, finding resources to implement civic learning and democratic engagement opportunities that are often perceived as tangential to the education process is nearly impossible. AmeriCorps, now in its 20th year of implementation, has had a steady stream of funding and bipartisan support from the government over the years. IHEs that sponsor an AmeriCorps program have the potential to civically engage students and promote mutually beneficial community partnerships.

Using inteorganizational collaboration theory as a framework, I examined two different models of IHE-AmeriCorps partnerships. Based on the levels of collaboration, I was able to assess the degree to which these types of partnerships could be feasible at distinctly different IHEs given their organizational structure and resources. Although the findings of this research are not generalizable, they provide insights into how IHE-AmeriCorps partnerships operate and demonstrate that, in the cases examined, they do implement the key recommendations of A Crucible Moment. As a result, an IHE-AmeriCorps partnership could be an effective and relatively inexpensive way for an IHE to enhance their civic engagement opportunities.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission