Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education Policy, Planning, and Administration

Committee Chairperson

Heather Schugar, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Matthew Kruger-Ross, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nick Hanford, Ph.D.


The field of student affairs is experiencing a difficult retention problem with 50-60% of entry level professionals leaving the field in their first five years (Tull, 2006). Research has focused on entry level professional experiences, as well as investigating the efficiency of curriculum standards to understand intentions to leave the field. Yet, graduate students are deciding to leave the field even before they graduate (Richard & Sherman, 1991; Silver & Jakeman, 2014), with little known of their actual educational experiences (Kuk et al., 2007). Moreover, an investigation of mentorship within the context of a graduate student’s educational journey can aid in understanding the holistic experience within a preparatory program in student affairs. The purpose of this study was to illuminate student voices through an investigation of mentorship experiences in a graduate student affairs program in higher education, while also considering the implications of mentorship on students’ personal and professional development. Utilizing instrumental case study methodology with a phenomenological data collection instrument, three graduate student participants met individually with the researcher for two 60-90 minute interviews across seven weeks and composed two reflective journals. Participants detailed their experiences with mentorship across their educational journeys, as well as reflected on the implications of those experiences for their personal and professional development within the context of future student affairs work. Participants considered a combined approach between faculty and professional staff in student affairs graduate preparatory education and also established a co-constructed definition and characterization of mentorship within the context of student affairs.