Date of Award

January 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Margaret A. Healy


The purpose of this study was to examine the concept of "fit" with housing/residence life professionals at colleges and universities using Werbel and Gilliland's (1999) framework/ model of describing person-environment fit and then determine how/if this fit may be impacted by individual or institutional demographics. This purpose aligned well with the emerging interest in student affairs competencies (ACPA & NASPA, 2010) as well as the literature around person-environment fit as a factor for satisfaction and retention of new professionals. The work of Werbel and colleagues (Werbel & Gilliland, 1999; Werbel & DeMarie, 2005) provided a useful model to use in consideration of questions surrounding the selection practices in student affairs. This model identified person-environment fit as a multi-dimensional construct, including person-job, person-organization, and person-group fits. Despite documentation of unique environments at different types of institutions, in particular those in rural locations, the person-environment fit of new student affairs professionals has gone relatively unstudied. This study helped to examine this area.

The sample for this study was full-time residence life professionals in the employer role who had been employed at their institutions for at least one year and participated in some facet of the selection process of new student affairs professionals. A 55-item electronic survey was completed by 213 individuals representing 85 unique institutions. The questions addressed individual and institutional demographics of participants, as well as measures of person-job, person-organization, and person-group fits.

The analysis of the results of this study revealed that participants identified three unique dimensions of person-environment fit in the selection of new residence life professionals, and a slightly modified version of Werbel and Gilliland's (1999) model did apply to new residence life professionals. The age and hiring authority of the participants influenced how they rated the importance of each dimension of fit. In addition, the geographic location of the institution influenced the relationship between person-job and person-organization fits and their projected outcomes.

These results have implications for student affairs research, graduate education and professional development, and selection and human resource practices. They can help employers and candidates identify the best fit for future new professionals.