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This exploratory study examines how service-learning faculty and community partners affiliated with rural colleges and universities engage in a practice aligned with Stoecker’s (2016) proposed liberating service-learning framework. Findings from 10 in-depth interviews indicate the ongoing emphasis on student learning, increased interface with government leaders, local businesses, and advocacy organizations, and distinct contextual factors faced by service-learning partners in rural areas. These findings complicate Stoecker’s initial framework, which completely decenters student learning, and calls for a deeper understanding of who constitutes community, change, and power broadly and in the context of densely connected rural areas. It also places the liberating service-learning framework within a theory of community development and outside of its ongoing emphasis as an experimental education model.


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  • Alternative title

  • Journal title
    • Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship

  • Volume
    • 13

  • Issue
    • 2

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • License
  • Keywords
  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      Thanks to the Peterson Fund from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Human Ecology for supporting this research. Additional thanks to Randy Stoecker, Carolina Sarmiento, and Jennifer Gaddis, Dr. Drew Pearl, and Reviewers 1 and 2 for and offering critical feedback on this manuscript and research project. Last, an abundance of gratitude to participants who are transforming our universities and communities to create a more just and equitable world.