Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




M. Alison Buck


Audra Skukauskaite


Sharon Herbers


Barbara Aranda-Naranjo


This research explored the initial planning process of an international service-learning (ISL) initiative under development that involved a collaboration among a south-central Texas private university, a ministry of Catholic Sisters in Peru, a U.S. non-profit organization, and a Peruvian optometry school. Three collaborators were founded by the same religious order. An overlapping in mission and values influenced the context. By delving into the expectations of higher education and its pedagogical practices, ISL’s history and conceptualizations, and concepts of program planning and designing related to the fields of ISL and adult learning, this study presented significant program development aspects. Furthermore, the role of being a practitioner-researcher was highlighted. All work was viewed through John Dewey’s historical theoretical works related to service-learning theory and his early 20th century philosophies of democratic and experiential education, and framed by Pechak and Thompson’s (2009) Conceptual Model of Optimal International Service-Learning. This investigation was designed by Stake’s (2005) qualitative intrinsic case study. Data sources included interviews, archived organizational documents, and an insider perspective. Data analysis included Spradley’s (1980) Developmental Sequence and Taxonomy and Huckin’s (2004) content analysis techniques. Findings revealed four major themes: individual contributions, group dynamics, collaboration, and preparation. One sub-theme emerged under collaboration—meeting—and two sub-themes emerged under preparation—logistics and scouting. A timeline also emerged, listing occurrences that wove in the discovered themes as dynamic features. This work contributes to the ISL development before program design and implementation by modeling an initial planning process under development and introducing the holistic planning concept.