Developing the Student Anchor Engagement Framework

  • Jennifer Johnson Kebea Drexel University
Keywords: anchor institution, civic learning, democratic engagement, student engagement


Modern urban and metropolitan universities are increasingly obliged to recognize their role as anchor institutions. These same institutions of higher education (IHEs) also have a responsibility to educate students to be responsible and participatory citizens in society. An increasing number of IHEs recognize these distinct commitments as central to the public purpose of higher education. However, few intentionally involve students in anchor mission work. This misalignment denies students a rich opportunity for civic learning and democratic engagement. Furthermore, it prevents IHEs and their surrounding communities from realizing the benefits of harmonizing these two commitments. This mixed-methods research study resulted in the development of the Student Anchor Engagement Framework, a 36-item strategic framework designed to identify how IHEs can intentionally involve students in anchor strategy. The framework derives from The Democracy Collaborative’s Anchor Institution Community Benefit Dashboard. Expert participants ranked all items included in the framework as to their potential to influence student civic learning and democratic engagement. Implications of this research study include the potential for IHEs to consider, strategically, ways to align student civic learning with anchor institution practices for the advancement of both pursuits.

Author Biography

Jennifer Johnson Kebea, Drexel University

Lindy Center for
Civic EngagementDrexel University
3210 Cherry Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Dr. Jennifer Johnson Kebea is the executive director of the Lindy Center for Civic Engagement at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. With over a decade of experience in higher education, Dr. Kebea has been part of Drexel University’s expanding efforts around civic engagement since 2009. Her research interests exist at the intersection of universities’ dual roles to serve as both civic educators of students and as anchor institutions within their surrounding communities.


Alperovitz, G., & Howard, T. (2005). The next wave: Building a university civic engagement service for the twenty-first century. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 10 (2), 141-157.

American Association of Colleges & Universities (2012). A crucible moment: College learning and democracy’s future. Washington, D.C.

Ashworth, K.H. (1964). Urban renewal and the university: A tool for campus expansion and neighborhood improvements. The Journal of Higher Education, 35 (9), 493- 496.

Boyte, H.C., & Kari, N.N. (2000). Renewing the democratic spirit in American colleges and universities: Higher education as public work. In T. Ehrlich (Ed.), Civic responsibility and higher education (pp. 37-60). Westport, CT: The American Council on Education and the Oryx Press.

Campus Compact. (2016). Creating a great campus civic action plan. Retrieved from

Cantor, N. (2009). A new Morrill Act: Higher education anchors the “Remaking of America.” Presidency, 12 (3), 16-22.

Creswell, J.W. (2012). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (3rd ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Dalkey, N.C. (1972). The Delphi method: An experimental study of group opinions. In N.C. Dalkey, D. L. Rourke, R. Lewis, & D. Snyder (Eds.), Studies in the quality of life: Delphi and decision-making (pp. 13-54). Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

Day, J. & Bobeva, M. (2005). A generic toolkit for the successful management of Delphi studies. The Electronic Journal of Business Research Methodology, 3 (2), 102- 116.

Dewey, J. (1900). The school and society. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Dubb, S. (2015). Anchor Institution Community Benefit Dashboard. Tacoma Park, MD: The Democracy Collaborative.

Dubb, S., McKinley, S., & Howard, T. (2013). Achieving the anchor promise: Improving outcomes for low-income children, families, and communities. Takoma Park, MD: The Democracy Collaborative at the University of Maryland.

Guinan, J., McKinley, S., & Yi, B. (2013). Raising student voices: Student action for University community investment. College Park, MD. Responsible Endowments Coalition and the Democracy Collaborative.

Harkavy, I., & Hartley, M. (2008). Pursuing Franklin’s democratic vision for higher education. Peer Review, 10 (2/3), 13-17. Retrieved from

Jacoby, B. (2009). Civic engagement in higher education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Kebea, J.J. (2016). Engaging students in the anchor mission of the university: A mixed-methods study utilizing the Delphi method. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global

Linstone, H. & Turoff, M. (1975). The Delphi method: Techniques and applications. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.

Rayens, M.K. & Hahn, E.J. (2000). Building consensus using the policy Delphi method. Policy, Politics, & Nursing Practice, 1 (4), 308-315.

Renaud, J.P. (2008). Morrill Act. In Encyclopedia of the Social and Cultural Foundations of Education (p. 518). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Saltmarsh, J., Hartley, M., & Clayton, P.H. (2009). Democratic engagement white paper. Boston, MA: New England Resource Center for Higher Education. Retrieved from

Saltmarsh, J., & Driscoll, A. (2015). Carnegie selects colleges and universities for 2015 Community Engagement Classification. Retrieved from

Skulmoski, G., Hartman, F., & Krahn, J. (2007). The Delphi method for graduate research. Journal of Technology Education, 6 (1), 1-21.

Sumison, T. (1998). The Delphi technique: An adaptive research tool. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 61 (4), 153-156.

Von der Gracht, H.A. (2012). Consensus measurements in Delphi studies. Review and impactions for future quality assurance. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 79 (8), 1525-1536.

Wittman, A., & Crews, T. (2012). Engaged learning economies: Aligning civic engagement and economic development in community-campus partnerships. Boston, MA: Campus Compact.