Education Doctorate

Year Approved


First Advisor

Dahlvig, Jolyn


College students’ stress levels and mental health problems continue to rise (Acharya, Collins, & Jin, 2016; Galatzer-Levy & Bonanno, 2013; Gallagher, 2009; Gallagher, 2012; Giamos, Lee, Suleiman, Stuart, & Chen, 2017; Li 2018; Ketchen-Lipson, Gaddis, Heinze, & Eisenberg, 2015; Shepherd & Edleman, 2009; Wood, 2012). Social support experienced in a residential university setting mitigates the negative impact of these dynamics on student success, health, and retention (Bland, Melton, Welle, & Bigham, 2012; Buote, 2007; Gosnell, 2019; Nicpon et al., 2006; Watkins & Hill, 2016). However, in mid-March 2020, a major disruptor in the form of an outbreak of COVID-19 (a coronavirus with a high contagion rate and symptoms that include coughing, sore throat, and difficulty breathing which could lead to severe and fatal illnesses) led higher education institutions to cancel in-person classes and require a majority of their residential students to leave campus. Borrowing heavily from a phenomenological research methodology, this project utilized an action research design to facilitate data collection and analysis of interviews with sixteen sophomore students about their lived experience of a major disruption of moving away from campus. The study found that after a brief adjustment period, the majority of students reported they were doing better than they had expected they would and rated their mental health as good. Although the study concludes that students experienced ongoing learning about their identity, including their own resilience, the study also indicated that students reported a growing awareness of their own fragility and of their need for community.

Degree Name

Education Doctorate

Document Type

Doctoral dissertation

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.