An exploratory study to identify competencies for entry-level residence life professionals
Haggerty, Brian Joseph
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The purpose of this study was to identify the competencies important for success in entry-level residence life positions. The literature suggests that student affairs professionals must ascertain which skills require further development in order to identify professional development activities that will increase proficiency and improve overall practice. A structured professional development model for entry-level residence life professionals may help to reduce role ambiguity and burnout, leading to reduced attrition rates and increased retention. A three-round modified Delphi study was conducted to identify three sets of competencies important for success in entry-level residence life positions. Three different groups of participants were used for this study, (a) those in entry-level residence life positions, (b) those who currently supervise entry-level residence life professionals, and (c) residence life experts. Participants were members of the Northeast Association of College and University Housing Officers (NEACUHO). Nominations were solicited for the expert participant group, and individuals in the entry- and supervisor groups were self-identified. At the conclusion of the study, 28 entry-level participants completed all three rounds of the modified Delphi study producing 114 individual competencies. There were 99 individual competencies identified by the 17 supervisor participants who completed all three rounds. Finally, the 11 expert participants who completed all three rounds proposed 66 individual competencies. The resultant sets of competencies identified by the three participant groups offers a current inventory of the skills deemed important by those groups. Most competencies identified were assigned a rating indicating some level of importance, though some differences between the groups are seen in the competencies identified as most important. The identified competencies help to highlight similarities and differences between stakeholder groups. Without an agreed upon set of competencies that are important for success in entry-level residence life positions, there will continue to be debate as to which competencies should guide the preparation, selection, training, development, and evaluation of entry-level residence life staff. The development of an exhaustive list of competencies, identified by different stakeholder groups, will help to inform the discussion around the development of an agreed upon set of competencies for entry-level residence life professionals.