Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Jill Channing

Committee Members

Terence Hicks, Jean Swindle


This qualitative phenomenological study explored the experiences of students working as resident assistants (RAs) in college or university housing departments during the March 2020 COVID-19 shutdown. Twelve current and former RAs participated in qualitative interviews exploring their experience as their institutions shut down because of COVID-19. Three broad categories of experience were found: RAs who were considered essential employees and required to work during the pandemic, RAs who were given the option of working during the pandemic, and RAs who were laid off at the beginning of their pandemic. The central research question was regarding the perceived experience of RAs during the pandemic. RA job duties were detailed from before the pandemic and after the shutdown had taken place. Subquestions regarding RAs’ experiences with their supervisors, their experiences with their peers, their experiences with support systems at their university, and their academic experiences were also detailed. Coding and subsequent analysis yielded the following themes: role of communication, motivation, confusion, disappointment, negative stress, residential life, and unexpected positives. The research includes a discussion about the differing outcomes based on whether or not RAs had choice in their decision to continue to work during the COVID-19 shutdown. The project concludes with recommendations for practice for staff and administrators in housing and residence life, student affairs, academic affairs, and human resource services. These recommendations included implications for RAs and their relationships, RAs as college students, the mental health of RAs, and RAs as essential personnel. Implications for further research included exploring the role of college student supervisor as advocate and caretaker, the services offered by universities during times of crisis, and the exploration of being essential personnel and student employees.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


2023 by Amy Bayless Korstange