First Advisor

Karen Haley

Term of Graduation

Winter 2024

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership: Postsecondary Education


Educational Leadership and Policy




Attrition, Grit, Persistence, Seasoned Student Affairs Professionals, Senior Student Affairs Officers, Student Affairs



Physical Description

1 online resource (x, 274 pages)


The attrition of student affairs professionals has plagued higher education for decades and continues to negatively impact the profession. Over 40% of new student affairs professionals leave the field and leading contributors to this departure include unsustainable working norms, outdated and deficient job-related incentives, and burnout. Prior research focused primarily on why staff intend to leave and do leave student affairs, but little research has explored why professionals persist and successfully cultivate a long-term, sustainable career in student affairs. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of seasoned student affairs professionals who have persisted in the field and apply the construct of grit as a theoretical framework. Understanding why student affairs professionals persist better equips higher education to reduce attrition rates which in turn reduces disruptions to the academic mission, financial costs associated with staff turnover, and the perpetuation of operating under strained conditions leading to attrition. Through a basic qualitative study, 10 student affairs professionals representing various institution types from across the United States, were interviewed using a semi-structured protocol and surveyed to assess their level of grit and passion attainment. Participants of this study exhibited gritty behavior and were passionate about working in student affairs. External support structures like personal and professional relationships as well as work environments that encourage flexibility and autonomy combined with high levels of grit led to a sustainable career in student affairs.


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Persistent Identifier

Available for download on Friday, February 28, 2025