The Future Promise Initiative: An Action Research Study of a Community College's Integrated Program Serving Immigrant Students

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ed.D. in Educational Leadership


Department of Educational Administration


Matthew Witenstein


Community colleges play an important role in helping immigrant students achieve their educational and career goals, a role that has only increased in recent years as the number of immigrant students pursuing higher education has grown. Community colleges across the United States have strived to adapt to this growth. Like other community colleges, Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) has experienced growth in enrollment for immigrant students and seeks ways to better serve those students. This dissertation is an action research study assessing the Future Promise initiative, an intentional effort by NICC to improve the recruitment, retention, and academic performance of immigrant students begun in 2021. The purpose of the study is to improve practice at the college through the development of an action plan with specific measures designed to better meet the needs of immigrant students. The study draws on existing research on immigrant students in higher education, particularly at community colleges, and English-language proficiency programs. It also draws on the funds of knowledge and literacy ecology theoretical frameworks, which emphasize the importance of drawing on students' practical knowledge in creating a curriculum and learning environment. The study involved collecting and analyzing quantitative data, particularly student attendance records and English-language proficiency test scores. It also included quantitative interviews with six immigrant students and seven administrators, instructors, and staff at the college. The analysis and interpretation of the data revealed the strengths of the Future Promise initiative, as well as ongoing challenges. It laid the foundation for an action plan focused on creating a bridge program integrating ESOL instruction into NICC's credit-based programs and developing professional trainings for faculty and staff to help them better adapt student services to help address those challenges. The quantitative data showed that initiatives such as more intentional outreach to the immigrant community dramatically increased student attendance but had only a slight positive impact on the rate of improvement in English-language proficiency. The interviews, together with an analysis of existing scholarly literature, made clear the need for the action plan. The study has important implications for future practice and research. It shows that intentional outreach to underserved student populations can be effective, and that engaging organizational stakeholders, including students, is a powerful means of bringing about organizational change. The study also demonstrates that improving student services for underserved student populations will often require a broader change in organizational culture. This study does not end the research progress; NICC must continue to assess and analyze the success of the bridge program and professional development offerings once those are implemented. The implementation of these initiatives also raises the possibility of studies comparing these efforts to those at other community colleges aimed at similar goals.


Community Colleges, Community College Education, Higher Education, English As A Second Language, immigrant students, community college, English-language proficiency, bridge program, English for Speakers of Other Languages, action research

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Copyright © 2022, author.