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Relational versus Transactional Community Engagement: An Experience of the Benefits and Costs

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Models of community engagement practices

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1037.1 - 24.1037.11



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Paper Authors


Linda Vanasupa California Polytechnic State University

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Linda Vanasupa has been a professor of materials engineering at the California Polytechnic State University since 1991. She also serves as co-director of the Center for Sustainability in Engineering at Cal Poly. Her recent work is focused on creating ways of learning, living and being that are alternatives to the industrial era solutions--alternatives that nourish ourselves, one another and the places in which we live. Her Ph.D. and M.S. degrees are in materials science and engineering from Stanford University (1991 and 1987) and her B.S. degree in metallurgical engineering from the Michigan Technological University (1985).

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Lizabeth T. Schlemer California Polytechnic State University

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   Learning  through  community  engagement  (CE)  is  widely  considered  a  high-­‐impact  practice  with  the  potential  benefit  of  accelerated  cognitive  development,  deeper  learning  and  moral  reasoning  compared  to  traditional  classroom  approaches.  However,  not  all  efforts  of  community  engagement  are  alike  and  there  is  insufficient  distinction  in  articles  on  community-­‐engaged  learning  to  enable  faculty  to  design  an  experience  of  CE  learning  that  meets  their  learning  aims.  This  paper  makes  clear  the  differences  in  forms  of  CE  using  two  primary  axes,  the  compatibility  with  learning  objectives  (low  to  high)  and  the  attention  of  the  collaborators  (transactions  to  relationships).  Within  this  framework,  there  are  four  types  of  CE  forms,  each  with  different  consequences  for  the  students,  the  faculty,  and  the  community  partners.  Through  narratives  of  project  partners,  faculty  and  students,  we  contrast  the  experiences  of  two  types  of  CE  projects  and  their  impact  on  participants.  From  this  two-­‐year  case  study  involving  88  freshmen,  16  faculty  members  and  15  community  partners,  we  conclude  that  successful  CE  learning  requires  that  all  participants  have  an  awareness  of  the  type  of  CE  project  that  is  intended.  This  paper  implies  that  conscious  choices  around  CE  learning  type  are  critical  to  success  in  the  initial  phases  of  creating  the  community  engaged  collaboration.    

Vanasupa, L., & Schlemer, L. T. (2014, June), Relational versus Transactional Community Engagement: An Experience of the Benefits and Costs Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22970

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