Sarah Owens

Date of Award

January 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education, Health & Behavior Studies

First Advisor

Deborah Worley


In 2021, there were 68.9 million job separations. Of those, 47.4 million people willingly left their jobs (Romans, 2022). As the “Great Resignation” in the COVID-19 era continues, many professional staff in higher education are re-examining their relationship with work (McClure, 2021). Higher education professional staff, often feeling undervalued and unappreciated, are less likely to engage and more likely to intend to turnover; leaving institutions to bear the costs of lost productivity and staff replacement. This study examines the relationship between university professional staff members’ self-reported levels of psychological engagement (meaningfulness, safety, and availability), employee engagement (cognitive, emotional, and behavioral), intention to turnover, and COVID-19 impact (intrusion and avoidance). A sample of 240 higher education professional staff at a Midwestern university completed an online survey in late 2021. Results from correlations indicate significant relationships between psychological engagement, employee engagement, intention to turnover, and COVID-19 impact. The hierarchical regression results indicate that emotional engagement has statistically significant predictability in staff turnover intentions. In the model including COVID-19 impact, COVID-19 intrusion and emotional engagement were also found to be significant predictors of intention to turnover. Consideration of the implications of this study include how higher education administrators may address staff members’ engagement and potential turnover intention. One way is by effecting a comprehensive and strategic focus on a caring campus culture that values diversity, equity, inclusion, and a sense of belonging amongst staff, administrators, faculty, and students—even in an era of great disruption.