Case study analysis of college union employment as a source of student learning and self-efficacy development
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ABSTRACT College union professionals seek to create environments which support community building and student engagement. College unions foster student engagement through the deliberate use of programs and services, which enhance the overall student experience. Student employment is an out-of-class experience that is a necessity for most college students. College union professionals use the student employment experience as a way to further develop student engagement, involvement, and community building. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore how student engagement and student self-efficacy is impacted by student employment within the college union. An intrinsic case study research design, conducted through the lens of naturalistic inquiry, was used to address the four research questions that explored the experiences of six former student employees from the college union. Data collection for the study was conducted through the semi-structured interviews, observations, researcher’s journal and field notes, and document review. The constant comparative method of data analysis was used to analyze the data. In addition, a peer review with a college union colleague was conducted. The results of data analysis produced the following emergent themes: 1) the college union is the community center of the university; 2) student employment in the college union is an out-of-class learning experience; 3) student employment in the college union encourages the development of the student; and 4) student employment in the college union supports self-efficacy development. Within these main themes, several sub-themes also emerged. The findings of this study indicate that student employment at the college union made a difference in the lives of the participants. They felt engaged in their environment, learned a myriad of different skills and competencies, felt that they were an important part of the college union department, and believed in their abilities to set and achieve goals. Building a student employee program with a college union that connects the experience to the learning outcomes takes time. College union professionals need to make sure they are focusing attention on what is being learned and how the learning is occurring. The results of this study indicated that student employment in the college union is a source of student learning and self-efficacy development, evidenced through the experiences of the study participants.