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Underrepresented Students in Community Engagement: Approaches and Impacts

Vol. 27 No. 2: Special Issue: The Role of Community Engagement in the Educational Success of Underrepresented Students

Effects of Service-Learning and Community Engagement Programs on the Academic Outcomes of Underrepresented Undergraduate Students

  • Natalia Villamizar Duarte
  • Alexander Linares
  • Teresa Córdova
  • Isabel Lopez
  • Yu-Chi Wang
  • Geoffrey Maruyama
May 3, 2023


This study examines the effects of service-learning and community engagement programs on the academic outcomes of undergraduate students, focusing on underrepresented students. Prior studies documented the positive impact of community engagement on students’ academic engagement, sense of belonging, and persistence, especially for underrepresented students. We explore the effects of four service-learning and community engagement programs on students’ persistence (GPA, credits earned, retention) and college completion at the University of Illinois Chicago. We use propensity score matching to compare outcome variables of the treatment and control groups. We found varying degrees of statistically significant academic outcomes across the four programs (trending positive overall). To complement the quantitative findings, we carried out focus groups with each program. We found that for underrepresented students, service-learning and community engagement activities, especially when mentorship is involved, offer connections with their communities that help improve their academic engagement, sense of belonging, and persistence.