Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein-Palmer

Second Advisor

Dr. Patricia Reeves

Third Advisor

Dr. William Arnold


Service-learning, service-learning director, reflection, transformational, community, higher education


This research explored issues surrounding service-learning directors (SLDs) within higher education institutions, including who they are, how they became SLDs, and what they experience in the role. Qualitative data were drawn from in-depth interviews of 11 SLDs, as well as review of their vitaes. A qualitative inductive analysis was conducted in which important patterns, themes, and interrelationships that emerged from the data were coded into a category system of major themes and subthemes.

Data analysis revealed the following major themes: (1.0): all the SLDs came from various helping profession backgrounds, with interesting journeys to become a SLD; (2.0) many SLD’s embarking upon their professional carriers had a transformational experience and/or craved a deeper experience beyond the pages of the text book; (3.0) most SLDs have such a strong connection to their undergraduate/graduate institutions and its mission that they have continued to work at, or returned to currently serve at, this same institution; (4.0) Majority of the SLDs agree that service-learning should be housed, as research suggests, within Academic Affairs; (5.0) all of the SLDs use the standard definition of service-learning, stressing the importance of the hyphen “-” to show the reciprocity between all key players; (6.0) values and beliefs vary among the SLDs, however they do centralize around the theme of holistic student growth; (7.0) many SLDs felt institutional support (upper level) was needed, not just in terms to say they approve of service-learning, but for them to be active participants in service-learning; and (8.0) most SLDs correlate their job responsibilities to align with the institution’s core mission, but do admit that there are “blurred lines.”

These themes were organized into a framework profiling SLDs, and 17 key findings were extracted. Comparison to the extant existing research is offered, as are recommendations for higher education leaders and future research.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access