Date of Award

5-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Higher Education Administration

Major Professor

J. Patrick Biddix

Committee Members

Gary J. Skolits, Ernest W. Brewer, David W. Schumann

Abstract

The current body of living-learning community (LLC) research primarily documents programmatic impact relative to intended outcomes such as social integration and improved academic performance. Conversely, few published studies address potential unintended consequences of LLCs. Just as intended outcomes often result from purposive action, unintended consequences may also occur when intentional programming produces unforeseen results. Evidence suggests LLCs—particularly those serving first-time freshmen—may contribute to unanticipated outcomes because of the complex social process occurring within peer groups of post-adolescent students (Jaffee, 2007). Despite evidence that LLCs may produce unforeseen outcomes, the impact of unintended consequences on LLCs remains relatively undocumented in the research literature.

This qualitative comparative case study uncovered and documented unintended consequences related to participation in two well-established LLC programs at a large public university. Study participants included students, staff, faculty, and administrators who participated in multiple data collection procedures. The findings of this study revealed that unintended consequences occurred when relationships between program stakeholders eroded over time. In the absence of programming to sustain group cohesion, LLC cohorts became susceptible to an array of destructive social practices including social marginalization, insularity, risky behavior, rebellion, and conflict. Findings further illustrated the importance of faculty members and administrative personnel associated with LLCs in establishing and maintaining a sense of community among program stakeholders. Implications for practitioners and recommendations for future research are included.

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