Journal of College & University Student Housing Vol. 47 No. 2 - 91

Residence Halls and Student Belonging

The extent to which students feel like they fit within
the university environment affects their well-being,
motivation, and retention, and the opportunity to
personalize their residential space can lead to other
positive outcomes such as a sense of belonging, retention,
and higher GPAs.
	
After securing IRB approval, we recruited students using a purposive sampling technique. Requests for participation were sent
out to student organizations and psychology
and communication departments via class
announcements and posters displayed in the
residence halls. Participants were eligible for
a $5 coffee shop gift card, two hours of service
credit for participating in honor societies, or
course research credit. All participants in this
study completed informed consent forms.
	
During the spring 2018 data collection
period, a total of 79 students participated in
the study. Thirty-six students participated
only as photo journalers, and 43 participated
in both photo journaling and interviews or
focus groups. Of the pool of student participants, most (90%) were in their first or second year of college. Participants racially identified as follows: 59% White, 18% Asian, 11%
as two or more races, 6% Hispanic or Latinx,
and 4% Black or African American. Of the
participants, 88% were born in the United
States, and English was the primary language
for 91% of them. A total of 9% self-identified
as first generation (born in a country other
than the U.S.), and 18% identified as second
generation (born in the U.S. with at least one
parent who was born in another country).
Fifteen academic majors were represented
among participants, with the highest participation from those majoring in communication, health science, and psychology.

88

The Journal of College and University Student Housing

Data Collection
In order to understand students' experiences,
perspectives, and the meanings they associated with different spaces, we employed multiple qualitative methods, as is common in
case study methodology (Creswell & Creswell,
2017), including participant-created photo
journals (Chaplin, 2004; Collier & Collier,
1986; Suchar, 1997), focus groups, and interviews (Kvale, 1996). Students had the option to participate in photo journaling and
a follow-up interview or focus group. All
participants completed a brief online questionnaire that requested basic demographic
information (e.g., gender, race, generation,
etc.). For the photo journaling process, students were provided with a shooting script
to guide their picture taking (Suchar, 1997).
Participants had approximately two weeks to
respond to seven questions through photos.
Representative questions included the following: " In which space(s) in your residence
hall do you feel the most comfortable? " and
" What does it mean to 'belong' in your residence hall? " Participants also had the opportunity to provide brief descriptions or explanations of their submitted photos. Students
were invited to participate in a 45-minute
individual interview or a 90-minute focus
group session. Semi-structured interviews
and focus groups centered on the shooting
script questions and prints from the photo
journals. With all identifiers removed, the



Journal of College & University Student Housing Vol. 47 No. 2

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