Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 48, No. 2 - 98

Relationships Matter
Because building and facilitating relationships is a cornerstone of
the RA position, RAs are not immune to experiencing feelings of burnout.
Although the core components of mattering have evolved over time, the current
understanding of mattering among college students includes four distinct areas:
(a) awareness, (b) importance, (c) ego extension, and (d) reliance (France & Finney, 2010,
p. 49). Awareness involves others acknowledging and recognizing our existence (Elliott
et al., 2004, p. 340); an RA would perceive they mattered if a resident commented on their
absence when the RA was away from campus for a weekend. Importance is the belief that
other people " care about what we want, think and do " (Rosenberg & McCullough, 1981,
p. 164) or, more generally, the recognition that we are " the object of [another's] interest
and concern " (Elliott et al., 2004, p. 341). When residents care about the success of an
RA's program, the RA may feel as if they matter more due to an increased feeling of
importance. People experience ego extension when others respond to situations in the
same manner as they do and exhibit similar emotions (France & Finney, 2010). RAs
may feel a sense of ego extension when residents share in their excitement or disappointment
about an exam or personal issue. Reliance is characterized by others depending
on us or needing us (Elliott et al., 2004), and RAs may feel a heightened sense of
reliance when a resident comes specifically to them for a counseling or tutoring referral.
Mattering has deep implications on college and university campuses. According
to Schlossberg (1989), student mattering exists on a continuum, with marginality on
the opposite end. Students who perceive that they matter are more engaged in the
college environment (Schlossberg, 1989), while those who depart the institution prior
to completing their education feel less engaged (Tinto, 2006). Students who feel as
if they matter have an enhanced sense of belonging, which can contribute to their
success in college (Wolf-Wendel & Ruel, 1999). The concept of mattering has not
been widely applied to the residential environment, and RA mattering in particular
has only been studied in the context of their placement (residence halls versus apartments)
and their community size (Stoner & Zhang, 2017). RAs living in apartments
reported significantly lower feelings of mattering than did their residence hall counterparts,
and there was a significant inverse relationship between RA mattering and
community size (Stoner & Zhang, 2017). Therefore, the relatively unexplored concept
of mattering in college residential settings provides a critical framework to explore
the relationships between RAs and their residents, especially when considering their
levels of experienced burnout.
METHODS
Data and Sample
In this study, we used data drawn from RAs' responses to a survey uniquely developed
to measure their sense of mattering and levels of burnout. The survey also collected
information about RAs' demographics and working environment characteristics to help
establish a baseline model predicting burnout, recognizing that RAs with unique identities
and working under different environmental conditions have varied experiences. The
98 The Journal of College and University Student Housing

Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 48, No. 2

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 48, No. 2

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