Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Higher Education (EdD)

Degree Level



Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders


Michael Hevel

Committee Member

Mary Ramey

Second Committee Member

Michael Miller


Liberal Arts, Resident Assistant, Women


Resident Assistants (RA) are unique positions within a university. Undergraduate students are selected to enforce policy, complete administrative paperwork, and develop community in on-campus housing. Despite the critical role these students play in the advancement of university programs and retention, there is a gap in research regarding what contributes to the success of individuals in the position. Within the limited literature on RA performance and success, there is no current research relating to factors that are shared among the highest-performing women in the role.

The current study identified nine high-performing women RAs at three small liberal arts universities in the Midwest. RAs were interviewed to determine common themes among their experiences and work that could be used to predict what contributes to their success. A semi-structured interview protocol was utilized to gain insight into the lives of each RA selected to participate in the study. At the conclusion of all interviews, audio recordings were transcribed to allow for member-checking and coding. A process of open coding identified themes that were categorized into axial codes, and then further consolidated into selective codes for analysis.

Axial codes of adaptability, external factors, ability to mitigate negative consequences, recognition of positive outcomes, ability to enforce policy, appreciation for administrative role, and a capacity to develop community and socialize were created to categorize the participant’s responses. These axial codes were further collapsed into the selective codes of personal characteristics, influencing factors, and understanding the role.

The highest-performing RAs demonstrated adaptability in the face of adversity, a set of common experiences and passions, and position knowledge that exemplified the goals of their job. College administrators should pay particular attention to the types of characteristics that women RAs share, with the intent to develop more undergraduate women into campus leaders. Future research should be directed toward diverse groups of students to compare what characteristics of high-performing women RA are shared among all undergraduate student leaders at all types of institutions.