Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Archer, D. Eric

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Counseling, Adult and Higher Education


Higher education administration; Adult education; Health education; Student affairs administrators--United States--Case studies; Student affairs services--United States--Case studies; College students--United States--Attitudes--Case studies; College discipline--United States--Case studies


The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore how Chief Student Affairs Officers make meaning of students demonstrating concerning behavior within large, residential university settings. The problem this study sought to address was the ambiguity of the construct student of concern. Two research questions guided the study, including: 1) how do Chief Student Affairs Officers describe their work with students of concern and; 2) how do Chief Student Affairs Officers describe factors which influence their perception of and responses to students of concern? A constructionist paradigm, student affairs models of practice, and components of organizational theory informed this study.;Four Chief Student Affairs Officers were purposefully selected from institutions located across the United States. The experiences of the participants served as the case for this study. Data collection occurred through eight participant interviews, responses provided to a case scenario, and gathering of documentation from online sources and through participants. Data were coded and analyzed within case and cross-case. Three salient themes, with six supporting subthemes, emerged from the data.;Findings suggested participants held varied meanings regarding the term student of concern. However, participants were consistently influenced by their institution and community, by personal and professional experiences, and through intersections of federal and state mandates with changing student demographics in constructing meaning around students of concern. Consequentially, findings suggested meaning making was influenced by chief student affairs officers' alignment with institutional mission and values, depth and breadth of diversity, word choice, and comfort with mental health.;In deconstructing the term student of concern, it became clear participants more broadly construed the term student of concern than how professional development materials portray the term. Additionally, it became clear participants preferred using the term student of concern over concerning student behavior. Findings of note included the presence of international students as influencing the construct student of concern, the impact of social media on speed of responding to students of concern, and the challenges of including disability as a tenet of diversity in broad conversations. Questions were raised regarding the problematic nature of the ambiguity of the student of concern construct.


Advisors: D. Eric Archer.||Committee members: Laura R. Johnson; Sue Kroeger.


246 pages




Northern Illinois University

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