Social identity and the shift of student affairs staff to the academic unit

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This study explored the phenomenon of student affairs professionals working at Arizona State University who shifted from a student affairs unit to perform similar work in an academic unit. The

This study explored the phenomenon of student affairs professionals working at Arizona State University who shifted from a student affairs unit to perform similar work in an academic unit. The conceptual framework for this exploration was social identity theory (Tajfel, 1974), which asserts that individuals develop a self-concept or image that derives, in part, from her/his membership in a group or groups. This qualitative study utilized in-person interviews to capture raw data from four purposeful participants, and a software package (NVivo 9) aided in the grounded theory approach to data analysis (Charmaz, 2006). The study found that participants placed a high value on the college-centric approach to their student affairs work, but they still identified as student affairs professionals working inside the academic unit. Findings are useful to: supervisors who have an interest in the professional development and personal well-being of staff; faculty and administrators of master's and doctoral degree programs designed to prepare student affairs professionals; associations that serve student affairs professionals; higher education leaders engaged in organizational change; and higher education administrators interested in the roles of individual biases and values in organizations. This study will interest student affairs professionals making the shift from a student affairs unit to an academic unit, and it will inform the researcher's own practice and career development through his investigation of his own organization.