Lahman, Maria K.
Black, Linda L.
Sheehan, Eugene P.
College of Education and Behavioral Sciences; Department of Leadership, Policy and Development: Higher Education and P-12 Education, Higher Education and Student Affairs Leadership
University of Northern Colorado
Type of Resources
Place of Publication
University of Northern Colorado
This constructivist narrative study explored the experiences of five senior student affairs administrators who responded to an organizational crisis impacting their universities. Crisis management is a critical competency for higher education leaders (Peters, 2014) and involves the prevention, mitigation, and planning prior to a crisis; response and recovery during the crisis; and learning and changing following a crisis (Zdziarski, 2006). This study was guided by the research question: how do campus leaders at an institution of higher education (IHE) make meaning of a campus crisis event? Five participants, all of whom are senior student affairs professionals with extensive crisis management experience, shared their stories of responding to the death of a student or staff member on campus. Death is often unexpected and particularly challenging on college campuses, since college is often considered to be a safe environment characterized by tight-knit social communities (Cintrón, 2007). Using crystallization as an overarching framework for understanding, this researcher used narrative interviewing and reflective drawing to facilitate participants’ sharing of their crisis stories. Two distinct scholarly contributions emerged from this study, each employing divergent analytical approaches that were then represented as research manuscripts. The first manuscript, which used organizational frames as a theoretical framework to analyze participants’ stories, drew upon the narrative interview data to elicit the following themes: student affairs’ leaders’ interactions with families, impacts on student affairs leaders’ families, tensions between structure and intuition, adaptability as necessity, and applying lessons learned to organizational change. The second piece, in which the author created transcription poetry as an analytical strategy, situated poems derived from transcript data adjacent to narrative passages and the participants’ reflective drawings to create a tapestry of meaning. Following the presentation of this tapestry, the author reflected upon the methodological challenges that emerged during the research process, including how narrative interviewing opened the way for deep sharing of stories, the use of poemishness and dilemmas of poetic (re)presentation, dilemmas in generating participant-driven reflective images, and the author’s own process of meaning-making while wrestling with the topic of death. The findings in both articles make significant contributions to both the scholarly literature on crisis management in student affairs and higher education as well as the methodological literature on arts-based research, namely the use of transcription poetry and reflective drawing. Since crisis management is an essential competency for student affairs leaders, implications for student affairs graduate preparation and professional practice are discussed.
Copyright is held by the author.
Available for download on Monday, May 31, 2021