Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Kenneth Gonzalez, PhD; Mary Woods Scherr, PhD; Elizabeth Walsh, RSCJ, PhD


case study, faith development, first year college students, mentoring, qualitative, residential learning communities, spiritual development


Although student development theories have recognized the complex processes of identity development, they have not adequately addressed the development of the spiritual self. Rather than given separate consideration, spiritual development is often discussed in the context of other aspects of development, such as the cognitive. Consequently, student affairs practitioners have not been adequately trained to address, facilitate, nor support the spiritual development of college students. One approach that has been proposed for facilitating the faith development of college students is Residential Learning Communities. Unfortunately, the assertion that Residential Learning Communities are a promising method of facilitating faith development in college students is not supported by research-based evidence. The purpose of this study is to explore and describe the impact of Residential Learning Communities on the spiritual and faith development of first-year college students at a faith-based institution. The following research question guided the data analysis: What are the components and characteristics of a faith-based residential learning community that facilitates faith development in first-year college students? Qualitative techniques were employed for this study, specifically, case study methods. The case was one residential learning community in a first year residence hall at a faith-based institution. The time period for the study was one academic year. The study utilized data from three different sources: field observations, documents, and individual interviews in both the fall and spring semesters. Findings suggested that the spiritual development of college students was a result of formal time for reflection and strong mentoring relationships. These two components helped shape a unique culture characterized by a strong sense of connectedness, respect for differences and an emphasis on learning not only about faith and spirituality, but community living as well. This study provides a description of how and why spiritual and faith development occurred in a co-curricular, residential setting and provides data on how student affairs practitioners can be more intentional about creating such contexts.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies