Community leaders' perspectives of a rural community college's impact on community development Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/c821gp102

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  • The purpose of this qualitative research study was to examine the role a rural community college plays in the development of its community, using a holistic, community-based lens that considered college and community context, interactions and results to answer the question: How does the rural community college impact the development of the rural community? While the community college's connection to the local community is largely inherent, a full understanding of community college-community interaction and the impact of those interactions on the community as a whole is often difficult to articulate. Given the context of today's education accountability requirements, it is advantageous to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the community college with regard to community impact and public benefit -- for community college practitioners, the public, and state and local policy-makers. A social constructivist research perspective, a case study research strategy, and a single case design were employed in this study. The case for this study was a rural Northwest community and the community college within it. The community college was classified as a small, rural-serving college by the Carnegie Classification of Colleges and Universities. A logic model design guided the study. Study participants included: elected officials; business and industry executives; and health, education and human services leaders. A combination of document review, participant observation, and interviews was used to answer the research questions: (a) What is the context of this community and this community college? (b) In what ways do the college and the community interact and engage? (c) What are the results of the college-community engagement? Examination of the data revealed several major themes and five significant findings: 1. The community defines itself through a regional, rural lens and is characterized by an interconnectedness of its people to the land and to the history of the region. 2. The college and the community invest in reciprocal relationships and collaborate on mutually beneficial pursuits. 3. An improved regional economy and skilled-up workforce are identified as positive community changes – and the community college’s contributions to those positive changes are cited as a public benefit. 4. A community leadership network with increased confidence in collaboration, understanding of community assets, and efficacy in community development is recognized as a positive community change -- and the community college's contributions to those positive changes are cited as a public benefit. 5. An enhanced community image and an optimistic community outlook are identified as positive community changes -- and the community college’s contributions to those positive changes are cited as a public benefit. When these findings are taken into account with the related literature, this study offers considerations for practice and further research among community college, civic, and policy leaders.  
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