Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Balancing the Needs of Students and Community: Understanding the Role of Senior Student Affairs Officers When Dealing with Students with Mental Illness
by Hall-Hertel, Katherine E., Ed.D., The George Washington University, 2011, 305; 3461624
Abstract (Summary)

The purpose of this multiple case study was to explore how administrators in higher education, specifically the Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAO), understood their role within the campus culture, as it relates to balancing the needs of the mentally ill students with those of the overall campus community. The primary research question was how is the role of the SSAO understood in the process of balancing the needs of mentally ill students with the needs of the campus community? This inquiry raised an important sub-question about how the values of the campus culture influence the role of the SSAO in balancing the needs of these two groups.

Three purposefully-selected small colleges served as the primary sites of this case study. Methods of data collection included 7 informant interviews, observations and document analysis. Using the concept of organizational culture as a theoretical frame, data were coded and analyzed using the constant-comparative method. Themes related to the research questions emerged from the data, resulting in five specific findings.

Findings suggest that participant colleges gave campus SSAOs high levels of autonomy and authority for decision-making and resource allocation. Personal experience and expertise guided their decisions, rather than the expertise of counselors, lawyers or emerging best-practices. The self-identity of the SSAO as decision maker strongly influenced their effectiveness in this role.

The culminating finding, termed “community safety,” reflects the way in which the institution's cultural values were found to affect the decision-making process. In all three cases, the SSAO's actions and institutional policies were congruent with the values espoused by the campus. This finding suggests that, at a minimum, the values of the SSAOs must be personally and professionally congruent with those of an institution's, if they are to be successful. The study concludes with recommendations for training options and resource allocation to improve services for students with mental illness.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kim, Mikyong Minsun
Commitee: Graham, Carolyn, Kretovics, Mark
School: The George Washington University
Department: Higher Education Administration
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 72/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Higher Education Administration, Educational leadership
Keywords: Decision-making, Mental health, Mental illness, Role, Senior student affairs officers, Student affairs, Students
Publication Number: 3461624
ISBN: 978-1-124-75226-6
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