Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education Policy, Planning, and Administration

Committee Chairperson

Orkideh Mohajeri, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Rachel Daltry, Psy.D.

Committee Member

Matthew Pierlott, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Rebecca Sawyer, Ed.D.


Faith is a form of social identity encompassing an individual’s religious and spiritual beliefs that aid them in making meaning in their lives (Fowler, 1981; Patton et al., 2016). While many secular institutions have reduced or removed learning about faith, Catholic higher education is an environment that integrates faith development into its work with students (Clark, 2001; Astin & Oseguera, 2004; Estanek, 2008). However, limited research exists on faith development in practice by early to mid-career student affairs professionals within Catholic higher education (James & Estanek, 2012). This qualitative study explored student affairs professionals' personal faith development experiences and their influence on understanding college student faith development. Nine student affairs participants with three to nine years of professional experience at U.S. Catholic colleges and universities were interviewed. Participants engaged in a semi-structured interview, provided a photo and narrative of a faith artifact related to an item of significance in their faith development, and shared reflections about faith in their work through video recordings in faith vignettes. Three themes emerged from the professionals as shared characteristics of faith development: disconnect, meaning-making, and a sense of belonging. In addition, three themes emerged related to how these personal experiences influence their understanding of college student faith development: faith is complex, faith development is a journey, and faith is not developed alone. This study contributes to understanding how student affairs professionals support student faith development within the context of U.S. Catholic colleges and universities and provide recommendations for practice and future research.