Skip to main content
Behind the Rhetoric: Applying a Cultural Theory Lens to Community-Campus Partnership Development
Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning
  • Kevin Kecskes, Portland State University
Document Type
Publication Date
  • College-school cooperation -- United States,
  • Educational leadership -- United States
The nature of engagement between American campuses and communities is contested. This article is an invitation to reconsider why community-campus partnerships often look so different and have diverse and sometimes negative outcomes. Using a cultural theory approach (Thompson, Ellis, & Wildavsky, 1990) to elucidate the four main cultural frames that inform human behavior--hierarchist, individualistic, fatalistic, and egalitarian--this treatment maps these frames onto the broad terrain of community-campus partnerships. This exploration enables service-learning and other partnership building practitioners to more clearly recognize and understand the preconceptions that influence partners' approaches. Because service-learning rhetoric is heavily biased toward egalitarian (reciprocal, mutual) relationship building, it does not necessarily ensure that all entities on and off campus understand or accept this approach. This application suggests several areas for future research as service-learning practitioners "unlearn a belief system" and work to build a new system in its place.

This is the publisher's final PDF. Originally published in the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning and can be found online at:

Persistent Identifier
Citation Information
Kecskes, K., (2006) Behind the rhetoric: Applying a cultural theory lens to community-campus partnership development, Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning. (12) 2, 5-14.