Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 50, No. 2 - 37

Improving Praxis in Residence Life
. . . the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated challenges that already
existed in participants' departments, making the pandemic
a rich context for studying the experiences of residence life staff.
of stress, low mental well-being, and a decrease in staff members' intention to continue
working in the field (Anderson, 2020; Nyunt, 2021). Similar to other fields, student affairs-including
residence life-has seen an exodus of staff during and after the height
of the COVID-19 pandemic (Long & Clement, 2021; Stebleton & Buford, 2021).
Retaining staff is not a new problem for residence life (Davidson, 2012; Jones,
2001; St. Onge et al., 2008), since the stressful work environment and demanding
work hours can lead to burnout and intentions to leave the field (Rankin, 2013; Reed,
2015; St. Onge et al., 2008). Considering the heightened stressors of the pandemic,
this timeframe provides a rich backdrop for studying ways to reduce stress and work
demands for residence life staff and to increase their job satisfaction and retention.
Thus, the purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the experiences of residence
life staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on ways that residence life departments
can improve praxis to promote staff members' well-being.
SCHLOSSBERG'S TRANSITION MODEL
Schlossberg's transition model guided this study (Anderson et al., 2011; Schlossberg,
2008). Schlossberg (2008) defined a transition as an event or non-event that results in
changed roles, relationships, routines, and assumptions and examined how individuals
move in, through, and out of transitions (Anderson et al., 2011). This model is used widely
in counseling, including employee counseling, and can help to identify strategies for
employees to cope with work transitions and foster their well-being (Schlossberg, 2011).
Working in residence life could be seen as a series of transitions. Staff frequently
move from one institution to another, up to a higher level position, or between different
types of positions (i.e., residence life, housing services, facilities). Even if staff stay
in the same position at the same institution, they frequently have new colleagues or
supervisors. During the COVID-19 pandemic, residence life staff encountered drastically
altered work environments, which challenged them to cope with transitioning to
new ways of operating and completing their work responsibilities. Considering these
contexts, Schlossberg's (2008) transition model can provide a valuable framework for
understanding the support and strategies that residence life staff may need to cope
with their ever-changing work environment.
Central to the model is the 4-S system (situation, self, support, strategies) for
coping with transitions (Schlossberg, 2011), which guided our approach to the study.
The first S, situation, challenged us to examine the context of participants' experiences
(Schlossberg, 2011), focusing on how their institution and department responded to
the pandemic as well as any other stressors within the individual's life. Self, which refers
to " the person's inner strength for coping with the situation " (Schlossberg, 2011,
p. 160), sensitized us to examine individual approaches to coping with the transition.
The importance of support, which can be provided by both the work environment
and personal networks (Schlossberg, 2011), pushed us to examine the type of help
that participants sought. Finally, we explored strategies that participants or their de34
The Journal of College and University Student Housing

Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 50, No. 2

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