Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

English Rhetoric and Composition, PhD

Committee Chair

Sheridan, Mary P.

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Kopelson, Karen

Committee Member

Kopelson, Karen

Committee Member

Williams, Bronwyn T.

Committee Member

Boehm, Beth A.

Committee Member

Lamos, Steve

Author's Keywords

community engagement; community writing; institutional critique; institutional ethnography; graduate education


This dissertation analyzes the affordances of university structures based on how they value and support community engagement, focusing on common issues for community-engaged scholars. In this case study of the University of Louisville as an institution developing stronger structures for community engagement, I show that current efforts represent important starting points for how institutions support engagement, but I argue that they, and scholarly discussion about them, need to be deepened to meet the needs of engaged scholars. Toward that end, utilizing an institutional critique methodology informed by scholarship in institutional ethnography, I combine analysis of university policies and documents with stakeholder interviews in order to explore the lived realities of these policies. My findings detail how the complexities of three oft-cited challenges faced by engaged scholars—promotion and tenure, learning opportunities, and transdisciplinary projects—are often elided in scholarship, doing scholars and administrators a disservice by misrepresenting how to develop what institutional structures for engagement at a university. Through this study, I add dimension to the relatively flattened suggestions for solving the complicated problems of institutional structures for engagement by making visible a deep professionalization structure beyond just promotion and tenure policy that devalues engaged research over the course of a scholar's career (Chapter 2); showing how individual scholars gain greater understanding of engaged research through community projects that combine meta and tacit learning (Chapter 3); and exploring how organizational infrastructure for transdisciplinary research can both sponsor individual projects and build institution-wide buy-in for community engagement (Chapter 4). Altogether, I argue that making the complications of institutional structures more visible will ease their navigability for emerging scholars interested in pursuing engaged research and help established scholars locate institutional changes that can be made to better support engaged scholarship.