Dissertation: Exploring the effects of addressing social injustices as a student affairs professional

Download: Bestler, L. (2012). Exploring the effects of addressing social injustices as a student affairs professional. (PDF)


This autoethnographic study is an intimate exploration of how student affairs professionals may be affected by working with students experiencing social injustices on campus.  As subject and researcher, I used my unique story, along with interview responses from three university community members, to guide the reader through an examination of the culture of student affairs.  This study illustrates how student affairs professionals may be transformed personally and professionally while advocating for students’ equitable rights.  To collect the stories, I transcribed the university community members’ responses and my personal experience from audio voice digital recordings.  In addition, data collection methods included reflecting upon personal email correspondences, written reflections, campus studies, newspaper articles, and research memos.  Although each student affairs professional has unique experiences, the self-reflection and analysis within this autoethnography provides an overview of the personal and professional transformation that occurs when advocating for students facing social injustices on campus.  Findings indicated the significance of role models, professional boundaries, and social justice advocacy in the culture of student affairs.  Furthermore, student affairs professionals may experience empathic distress and compassion fatigue when witnessing students facing social injustices.  The themes extracted from the findings indicate the importance of role models, barriers discovered while advocating for social justice, and a possible connection between student affairs, social justice, and compassion fatigue.  Finally, the implications of this study strengthen the need for student affairs professionals to be aware of their emotional health and for institutions to embed inclusivity for students within the campus environment by shedding hegemonic practices.