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Improving Praxis in Residence Life
partments used, such as changing or reframing a situation or reducing the stress
experienced in that situation (Schlossberg, 2011). Our goal was to identify innovative
approaches to reducing staff's stress levels and workload that could foster their ability
to cope and improve their mental well-being.
METHODOLOGY
This study was part of a larger mixed-methods research project. The first phase of data
collection involved a quantitative survey study sent to ACUHO-I members at the end of
October of 2020. Quantitative results based on 120 responses highlighted a decrease
in residence life staff's social-psychological well-being, which negatively influenced
their intention to continue working in the field (Nyunt, 2021). In spring of 2021, we
conducted in-depth qualitative interviews to gain a more comprehensive understanding
of residence life staff's experiences during the pandemic. This study is based on
that second phase of data collection.
Positionality
Our research team consisted of one faculty member and two practitioners. The first
author, who conducted all the interviews, is a white woman who worked in residence
life for seven years before becoming a faculty member. Though this extensive practitioner
experience allowed her to connect with participants over shared terminology
and experiences, she did not work in residence life during the pandemic and was thus
removed from the unique challenges that staff encountered during this time. The second
and third authors joined the team during data analysis. The second author, an
Asian woman, has five years of full-time residence life experience and currently serves
in a director-level position. The third author, a Latinx woman, worked for 15 years in
residence life and has supervised residence life as part of a larger divisional portfolio
for four years. Having worked as practitioners during the pandemic, both authors were
able to provide unique insights into the experiences of residence life staff before and
during the pandemic, which enriched our understanding of the data and allowed for
the development of implications grounded in praxis.
Participants
The first author recruited participants for interviews as part of the first phase of data
collection. The last question in the survey asked individuals to share their contact information
if they were willing to participate in a follow-up interview. Of the 120 survey
respondents, 54 agreed to participate in interviews. The first author started reaching
out to individuals in February of 2021, and 17 respondents completed an interview. We
did not provide incentives for participation in interviews.
Participants represented several different professional levels: seven entry-level
staff (five of them in live-on residence hall director positions), six mid-level managers
(four lived off and two lived on campus), three staff in senior leadership positions (i.e.,
director or associate director positions, two living off campus and one on campus), and
one participant who took on a newly created position of COVID-19 coordinator. Most
participants (14 of 17) worked at public institutions, and the majority (13 of 17) identified
as white. See Table 1 (pages 36-37) for detailed participant demographics.
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