Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
University resident assistants (RAs) have become a central component of modern higher education and community-oriented residential student experiences. RAs are increasingly responsible for not only community development and engagement of residential students, but also administrative and disciplinarian responsibilities (Boone et al., 2016; Conn, 2020). As a result, RAs face increased feelings of burnout (DuBose, 2020; Stoner, 2017), which research connects to higher turnover intentions and lower job satisfaction (Stoner, 2016, 2017). While most literature on RAs focuses on identification with various social groups (e.g., race, gender, sexuality), organizational identification (OI) – a deep-rooted sense of connection with an organization’s goals and values – has not been explored, despite literature that demonstrates OI’s effectiveness in reducing feelings of burnout (Avanzi et al., 2015, 2018), lowering turnover intentions, and improving job satisfaction (Greenham et al., 2019; Van Dick et al., 2004).
Currently, most scholars argue that OI occurs as when an individual experiences an increased sense of belonging within the organization. Other researchers, however, contend that an increase in social capital leads to OI; however, there is limited evidence in this regard. This mixed-methods study of university RAs aimed to understand how social capital is derived in the RA workplace and if that social capital led to higher OI. I conceptualized social capital as consisting of norms of behavior (knowing what to do), trust (believing in mutual beneficence), and governance (degree of input an employee has), and I focused on RAs’ professional interpersonal interactions as a source of social capital (Forsell et al., 2020; Weisman et al., 2022).
A survey of 94 RAs and interviews with 16 RAs at a large R1 university in the Southeastern United States reveals that social capital is derived from socialization and disciplinary processes, one-on-one meetings, and interactions with leadership during staff meetings and training sessions. Quantitative analysis suggests that as norms of behavior and governance capital increases, OI also increases, when controlling for the number of semesters as an RA, gender, and race. Qualitative interviews reveal that norms of behavior social capital derives from socialization and disciplinary processes, trusting social capital derives from one-on-one meetings and interactions, and governance social capital derives from input given in staff meetings and trainings. The results provide evidence that social capital contributes to RAs’ identification with housing and residence life; thus, housing and residence life leadership should invest in strategies to increase the accumulation of social capital, which would in turn influence OI and contribute to lower burnout and turnover intentions and increased job satisfaction.
Tidwell, Michael L., ""Things Can Get Unsavory": Professional Interactions, Social Capital, Organizational Identification Among University Resident Assistants" (2023). All Theses. 4089.
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