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The other concept discussed by participants was the growth of NACE competencies.
For instance, they pointed to moments of growth afforded by the residential context
where skills were developed. Growth was also described by words such as " learned, "
" developed, " and " taught. " When prompted on their student leadership experience having
facilitated either utilization or growth of NACE competencies, one student (White,
female, junior) replied, " I definitely grew as a leader. " Growth in NACE competencies
due to a residence life leadership position was echoed by another student (Asian,
female, senior): " During the RA role . . . that is the role that I've grown the most in. "
Growth in a NACE competency was additionally discussed by another student (White,
male, junior), who shared, " My friends [and I] have experienced the most growth in
critical thinking as a result of living on campus. " By living in a residential facility and
interacting with others, this participant was able to grow or develop in the competency
of critical thinking because of reflection on his own values. Growth was more than just
utilization; development was likely achieved within a NACE competency.
DISCUSSION
The residential context is unique in the realm of student learning and development
(Blimling et al., 1999; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005; Schroeder et al., 1994), as are the
experiences related to NACE-identified competencies (Peck & Callahan, 2019). Participants
in our study described the unique context of the residential environment as
having provided opportunities for first-time experiences and unintended outcomes.
While an individual's efforts may not always have been intentional, the residential environment
was perceived of as offering a living environment with opportunities for the
learning and development of NACE competencies.
The influence of formal leadership positions also became clear in contributing
to our understanding of the three emergent themes. As part of our thematic analysis,
we decided to embed the participants' leadership experiences within each of the
three emergent themes because each leadership example was inextricably tied to its
theme's characteristics; separating it would have diminished our ability to explain the
rich, thick descriptions as related to the NACE competency phenomenon under investigation.
This concept of leadership being embedded in learning as an experience
is not new. Previously, Ammann (2018) discussed how the leadership experiences of
different individuals can constitute potential starting points for learning processes. We
noticed that the leadership roles of our participants have led to their lived experiences
of the NACE competencies within collegiate residential life.
Our findings also highlight that institutional policies and practices should be
student-centered and developmental in nature. Given the multiple demands made of
a residence life office such as business, administration, and policy enforcement, some
offices have chosen to prioritize a business approach. While practices such as roommate
agreements, student leader interviews, and work orders may be formed with
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