Yakaboski, Tamara

Committee Member

Lahman, Maria, K. E.

Committee Member

Birnbaum, Matthew

Committee Member

Murdock, Jennifer L.


Leadership, Policy and Development


University of Northern Colorado

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created





202 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


Student affairs researchers for decades have examined new professionals’ development and retention into the field. Many researchers explored skills, qualities, and supervision styles needed to retain professionals. Others looked at environmental factors, like institutional type and organizational structures, that contributed to new professional development and learning in first positions. While these studies produced a foundational body of research on new professionals, all are from a deficit standpoint allowed for the gap in understanding what new professionals are doing well in their development and how are they thriving and succeeding when entering the field. In this dissertation study, the author used positive psychology theories, photojournals as a method, and portraiture methodology to explore the research question: How do self-identified positive professional experiences impact new professionals’ development in student affairs? Positive psychology shifted the paradigm in psychology from focusing on deficit and lack of mentalities to good, thriving, strength-based mentalities. This shift challenged the field to understand more about what new professionals in student affairs are doing right in their lives, how are they thriving, and use those qualities, experiences and characteristics to produce positive feelings in all areas of life. In addition to interviews, photojournals were used as a data collection method. In this study, photojournals may be described as a photoelicitation method through a technique called autodriving which put the camera in the hands of the participants. Participants in this study were asked to capture photos of six to ten moments or accomplishments in their professional development they saw as positive. These photos contributed to the portrait process as it added a visual element to an artistic methodology. Portraiture methodology is a qualitative, constructivist methodology that allowed I, as the researcher, to capture stories and experiences from 10 new professionals in this study and creatively depict them by bring the art of writing and the science of research together. The focus of this methodology is on goodness which is the process of unearthing good in the research process, nicely connecting to positive psychology. The findings from this study are 10 individual portraits of each participant’s experiences of being a new professional. Findings include four themes: providing transformative moments, being a change agent, encouraging a positive spirit, and the need for reflection and relationships. These themes highlight for each participant how the four themes played out in their professional development as a new professional. In the discussion and implications section, practical examples are discussed for new professionals, supervisors of new professionals, and faculty in graduate preparation programs.

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