Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education Policy, Planning, and Administration

Committee Chairperson

Orkideh Mojaheri, PhD.

Committee Member

Johnna Capitano, PhD.

Committee Member

Vanessa Johnson, PhD.


Over the past several decades, the retention of new professionals in student affairs has been a concern. Many newcomers leave the profession before completing five years in the field. This qualitative study explored factors contributing to career longevity in student affairs professionals through semi-structured interviews. I interviewed eight participants working at Mid-Atlantic University for more than five years. The semi-structured interviews were set up with a dual focus. The first half of the interview focused on the participants' experience as new professionals, followed by questions that explored their perspectives on supervising new professionals. Seasoned professionals who remained in the field for more than five years revealed contributing factors to their career longevity. Four early workplace experiences emerged from the study as contributors to career longevity: A platform for practice, substantial work, connection to professionals, and high-impact moments with students. This study also discovered how new professionals experience marginality and mattering during their entry-level positions and determined the three top mattering factors that positively influence student affairs retention: Sense of appreciation, sense of importance, and empathy during struggles. This study determined that supervisors primarily serve as coaches/cheerleaders and offer career assistance. The two mattering factors supervisors used most to guard newcomers against marginality also emerged: showing appreciation and empathy during struggles. The qualitative research study’s findings provide recommendations for practice and future research. This study makes a meaningful contribution to efforts to sustain newcomers in student affairs.