A Narrative Analysis of the Process of Self-Authorship for Student Affairs Graduate Students

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Research on preparation programs for student affairs professionals has focused primarily on identifying competencies. Limited attention has been paid to the process of how meaning is made of preparation program experiences. Of the scholarship conducted, minimal consideration has been paid to the relationship between development and the environment.

The purpose of this study was to explore the process of self-authorship for graduate students within a student affairs preparation program, and the environmental conditions that promoted that process. Utilizing narrative inquiry methodology (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Lieblich, Tuval-Mashiach, & Zilber, 1998; Marshall & Rossman, 1999; Shank, 2002), data was collected through in-depth interviews of six graduates of a student affairs preparation program meeting the standards set by the Council for the Advancement of Standards (2009), and analyzed using the constant comparative method (Lieblich et al., 1998). The preparation program studied was located at a public research university in the Midwest. The results were considered in relation to constructive-developmental theory (Boes, Baxter Magolda, & Buckley, 2010), self-authorship theory (Baxter Magolda, 2001; Kegan, 1982, 1994), the environment of reference model (Conyne & Clack, 1981), the learning partnerships model (Baxter Magolda, 2004), and transition theory (Schlossberg, Waters, & Goodman, 1995).

Results indicated that although movement toward self-authorship was achieved those who graduated had not fully reached self-authorship. The conditions identified that promoted the process of self-authorship included self-reflection and experiencing different perspectives. For example, participation in self-reflection helped participants separate their own meaning from that of others, as well as determine the value of the meaning made. The results also indicated that the participants sought out support within the environment as they experienced transition. Finally, the findings included a description of conditions within the environment that aided the participants in deciding to select the specific preparation program studied.

Although the interaction between the environmental conditions and the participants' meaning making systems varied, the findings can be transferred to student affairs preparation program environments, as well as practitioner environments.