Date of Completion


Embargo Period



service-learning, community engagement, community writing, writing, rhetoric, composition

Major Advisor

Thomas Deans

Associate Advisor

Brenda Brueggemann

Associate Advisor

Ellen Carillo

Associate Advisor

Serkan Gorkemli

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


This study explores the effects of community engagement on college writers years after completing first-year composition courses with service-learning partnerships. Since the 1990’s, scholarship has connected service-learning pedagogy and the gains that student writers stand to enjoy when writing for audiences beyond the classroom and purposes beyond the grade (Bacon, Deans, Wurr), while others have warned of the consequences of hastily planned service-learning partnerships (Mathieu, Cushman). These predictions and cautions have guided the larger conversation of community engagement in writing studies to include community-academy partnerships that involve students to varying degrees or not at all while guiding academic stakeholders in such partnerships to be more mindful of the effects of their work.

The time is right to check up on the students who took these courses. Therefore, this study includes testimony from 13 current (at the time of the interviews) and former University of Connecticut students, nine of whom took a service-learning first-year writing course, and four of whom took more “traditional” first-year writing courses. Participants for this IRB-approved study sat for 30-45 minute, in-person interviews with me. I first use the interview transcripts to create case studies of each participant in Chapter 4 and then use the same data to perform a coded, linguistic analysis of their interview responses. This allowed me to provide thick descriptions of participant responses, and the coded analysis allowed me to clear the waters for comparison and attempt to mitigate my own biases.

I find that, while service-learning did correlate with higher community engagement among the members of my study, the drive to engage in community action often preceded the service-learning course, and those who had not taken such courses expressed interest in working and writing outside of the academy as well. I also find that awareness of genre conventions as well as the uses of genres was keen among the former service-learners, and the reported literacy narratives among former service-learners seemed more dynamic than among those who took more traditional writing courses.

Available for download on Monday, April 24, 2023