Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Dr. Cindy White

Second Advisor

Dr. Patricia Sullivan

Third Advisor

Dr. Matt Koschmann


Resident advisors seek to foster an environment where residents feel safe and included in their residence hall community. Training has become increasingly crucial as the resident advisor role becomes more complex and ambiguous. Not all training is effective and it is important to help resident advisors move from “knowing” what to do to successfully enacting their knowledge in daily interactions. This study examined how resident advisors enact training on social justice topics in conversations with residents on inappropriate behavior, particularly inappropriate behavior that could make others, such as under-represented students, feel offended or excluded. Twelve interviews with both new and mentor resident advisors at a large southwestern university were conducted in order to better understand how resident advisors make sense of their role, experience training, and how they use their training in difficult interactions with residents. Three main themes were identified in analysis: sense making about the RA position is influenced by a relational understanding of the role; training is necessary for the role but also very hard to put into practice; and resident advisors feel that enacting the training is much harder than expected. One particularly interesting finding was that RAs say conversations on inappropriate behavior rarely occur because their floor or residents are unique, positioning their experience as different than others. These findings highlight the challenge for resident advisors to enact their training in conversations when attempting to maintain relationships with their residents.

Included in

Communication Commons