This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Boundary Spanners and Community-University Engagement Networks: A Mixed Methods Ethnographic Study




Duffy, Ashlee

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


Modern conceptions of land grant institutions have shifted focus from community outreach to community engagement, with focus on more egalitarian partnerships that place community members in active response to university engagement efforts. Historical studies that explore these interactions often fail to capture the nuance and reciprocity of these collaborations, thus minimizing the autonomy and contribution of the community. This study synthesizes theories of social network analysis, collaborative complex adaptive networks, and boundary spanners to frame the collaborations between university and community as community-university engagement networks (CUEN). Social network analysis is used to explore two research questions specific to a community-university partnership (O Grows) between Auburn University and the city of Opelika in Lee County, Alabama to demonstrate the collaborative structures of the resulting CUEN. Results of this study demonstrate the network structure of four boundary spanners (community-based problem solver, technical expert, internal engagement advocate, engagement champions) as well as measures of the CUEN growth and change in the partnership from 2012 to 2017.