First Advisor

Tucker, Gardiner

First Committee Member

Yakaboski, Tamara

Second Committee Member

Gilbert, Liz

Third Committee Member

Weingartner, Angela

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Document Type


Date Created



College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, Leadership Policy and Development: Higher Education and P-12 Education, LPD Student Work


Davis Smith, Amanda Michele. Is the grass really greener? A narrative study on what has drawn student affairs professionals, who identify as women, from student affairs to a position in the corporate world during the Coronavirus-19 Pandemic. Published Doctor of Philosophy. University of Northern Colorado, 2024 Capitalism shapes all aspects of Americans’ lives, particularly in their work lives. The nature of the Coronavirus-19 Pandemic changed the foundational model of the common workplace, which had been relatively unimpacted since the late 1920s. These changes have influenced many workers to reexamine their professional lives, thus leading to what has been referred to as the “Great Resignation”. Although many stories are being told about many professionals who have left their field amid the Great Resignation, there is a gap in the literature of the stories from Student Affairs professionals. This study was conducted using constructive epistemology, an interpretivism paradigm, and the Ideal Worker Theory when examining the data collected. Data were collected through a narrative inquiry methodology where eight Women-identifying participants shared stories by answering semi-structured interview questions. The purpose of this qualitative research study was to achieve an understanding of how participants constructed their understanding or meaning-making processes with their occupational life. The research questions are: Q1 What are the personal and professional reasons that women identifying mid-level Student Affairs professionals have decided to leave higher education and enter the corporate workforce since the start of the Coronavirus-19 Pandemic? Q2 What impact, if any, did leaving Student Affairs and Higher Education to enter the corporate workforce since the start of the Coronavirus-19 Pandemic have on women-identifying, mid-level Ex-Student Affairs professionals? Five findings emerged from this research, with each of them building on the other. The research found that there is a lack of trust between employees and leaders. This lack of trust causes employees to not feel appreciated. Employees also found no levels of promotion or career advancement in higher education which impacts their room for growth. Employees in Student Affairs have found that their quality of life; physical, mental, emotional, and financial health are negatively impacted. Finally, they have also realized that through this negative impact on their quality of life, employees have put the purpose of the profession over their own self-worth and they do not feel fulfilled anymore. This research benefits corporate workplaces and higher education institutions alike as this mass exodus of employees is happening across industries. By focusing on these recommendations, corporations will be able to highlight what benefits set them apart from other industries and expand their talent pools to include those who have experience in higher education and experience teaching adults. For higher education institutions, these recommendations highlight ways to increase recruitment and improve retention of Student Affairs professionals.

Abstract Format



178 pages

Local Identifiers


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Copyright is held by the author.