In higher education, numerous experiential learning programs are offered to enhance students' learning, including international travel programs, immersion programs, internship programs, and service-learning program. Although students participating in these programs are each higher education institution's number one stakeholders, rarely are they asked about the impact of these programs on their learning, both personally and professionally. For future graduate students, higher education institutions, program designers, and community partners, understanding the perspectives of graduate alumni that have participated in experiential learning programs can be valuable for the future development, assessment, and improvement of such programs. For this reason, the purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to describe the impact of experiential learning from the perspectives of graduate alumni of Pepperdine Graziadio School (PGBS) who completed Master of Science in Management and Leadership (MSML) Education to Community (E2C) service-learning capstone project. The study was guided by research questions that addressed graduate alumni strategies and practices when leading a change initiative in a service-learning context, the challenges they faced, their sense of the personal and professional significance of the opportunity, the lessons learned, and their recommendations for future programs. The goal of the study was to deliver to program designers current research that might contribute to the continued development and success of the MSML program. Altogether, through data collection and data analysis, the findings fully supported the effectiveness of the program as expressed from the perspectives of graduate alumni related to student satisfaction and learning outcomes. The impact as described by graduate alumni indicated positive outcomes and strong agreement of the immediate and continued benefits of their involvement in the E2C service-learning capstone project. The graduate alumni recounted that the opportunity to learn and apply theory by participating in the capstone project, with the support of faculty-to-student coaching and peer-to-peer mentoring led to long-lasting impacts, both personally and professionally. Of note, the findings suggested that in general graduate alumni gained a greater awareness of the non-profit sector, established relationships, developed leadership responsibilities, determined strategies and practices for leading change, and experienced personal development, and professional advancement. Because of these findings, a couple of specific implications are suggested for future MSML graduate students and current MSML program designers. Future graduate students interested in getting the most out of their E2C capstone service-learning project can incorporate the learning strategies, based on the successful experiences of graduate alumni, which include: (1) the utilization of MSML program resources, (b) academic collaboration, and (c) community partner collaboration. Additionally, a particular implication for program designers includes the application of a revised version of the collaborative approach to teaching students how to lead change model. The four components of this simple model create a platform for students to thrive in leading a change initiative through an E2C service-learning capstone project. The model consists of four primary components: (a) theory, (b) application, (c) coaching, and (d) evaluation.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Experiential learning; Graduate students

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Madjidi, Farzin;