Bringing Theory to Practice Case Studies

Seven Stories of Campus Theory and Practice on Student Learning, Civic Engagement and Well-Being

The following seven case studies were commissioned by Bringing Theory to Practice and authored by Sally Reed, after conducting interviews with campus participants in late 2014. The case studies tell campus stories—stories rich with varied successes and challenges in the complex work of studying student learning, civic engagement and well-being. The seven campuses represented offer a diverse set of contexts in which to appreciate BTtoP’s overall vision, and offer opportunities for learning and reflection.

As is to be expected, some of the background data, titles and institutional affiliations of persons, names of campus programs or facilities, etc., in these studies have changed since the interviews took place or programs were implemented (some nearly a decade ago.) If you have questions or wish to request further information, please reach out to BTtoP Project Associate Mercedes Yanora at to facilitate.

We hope you gain as much from these studies as we did!
-The Bringing Theory to Practice Project team

A Guide to Reading These Case Studies

By L. Lee Knefelkamp, Senior Scholar, Bringing Theory to Practice and Professor Emerita of Psychology and Education, Teacher’s College, Colombia University

These are powerful case studies that can provide us with insight into the efforts to focus on institutional change that will benefit students. It is often easy to simultaneously admire and dismiss such case studies because they are "stories" of what happened on one particular campus. We run the risk of over-generalizing the cases--because the findings are so hopeful...and dismissing them because they don't exactly match our own campus conditions. Below are some guidelines for reading and thinking about the case studies.

Recognize that each case study has a context:  the history of the institution, the climate for cultural/programmatic innovation, and previous examples of innovative efforts.

Compare your own institutional context to the context of the case study: where are the similarities and the differences?

Keep an open mind! There is learning in every case study!

  1. What has been learned about students or about shaping campus culture in the case study?
  2. How can the information gleaned from answering #3 inform what is happening on your own campus?
  3. What does the DATA say? And....what DATA should have been collected?
  4. How can the learning from the case be ADAPTED to your own campus?
  5. What are the core learnings from the terms of who students are and what needs they have AND how campuses can be responsive?
  6. What pragmatic plans can your campus make and what are the realistic scope of an intervention and time lines for such an intervention?
  7. What are the characteristics of the team that would design and implement a new program?

Case Studies

California State University, Chico

Dickinson College

Georgetown University

Kingsborough Community College & CUNY Graduate Center 

St. Lawrence University

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

University of Nebraska-Lincoln