Date of Graduation

7-2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Higher Education (EdD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders

Advisor

Ketevan Mamiseishvili

Committee Member

John W. Murry

Second Committee Member

Kit Kacirek

Keywords

Autonomy, Faculty Relationships, Graduate Assistantship, Internships, New Professional, Skill Development, Student Affairs, Student Success, Theory-to-Practice

Abstract

This qualitative case study explored the graduate assistantship experiences of early career master’s prepared student affairs professionals and examined the role these assistantships played in the preparation for their current position. The study included 10 participants who had all graduated with a master’s in higher education within the past 5 years, had participated in a graduate assistantship within student affairs, and worked full-time within a student affairs department at the time of the study. Each participant took part in a one-on-one interview that was recorded, transcribed, and reviewed for themes. I followed Braun and Clarke’s (2012) six-phase approach to thematic analysis to reveal eight themes: (1) Generalist Approach of the Academic Program; (2) Relationships with Faculty; (3) Value of Internships; (4) Graduate Assistants being Treated as Professionals; (5) Departments Allowing Graduate Assistants Autonomy; (6) Meaningful Connection Between the Program and the Assistantship; (7) Value of Skills from Graduate Assistantship; and (8) Significance of Professional Development. The findings showed that there was a meaningful connection between the academic program and the graduate assistantship; however, the transfer of knowledge was mostly limited to the student development theory and the legal perspectives courses. The study participants perceived internships as one of the most valuable parts of the academic program that gave them the opportunity to explore and gain skills in different student affairs areas outside of their assistantship. Professional development also proved to be significant for the participants not only for developing skills but also for building networks and support systems. Finally, the study participants identified keystone projects and experiences that allowed them to show autonomy and take ownership as the most vital aspects of their assistantships. These opportunities gave them confidence in themselves and had a positive outcome on their transition to a full-time position. The recommendations for future research and practice highlighted the importance of building a strong collaboration between the academic program and the graduate assistantships, developing a consistent and cohesive training for graduate assistants across student affairs departments, and allowing more autonomy and ownership in the assistantship experiences.

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