Graduation Date

Summer 2020

Document Type



Master of Arts degree with a major in Education

Committee Chair Name

Dr. Elizabeth Miller

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Dr. Eric Van Duzer

Second Committee Member Affiliation

Community Member or Outside Professional


Holistic, Higher education, Well-being, Holistic well-being, Wellness, Student development, Holistic education, Community, Affinity groups, Student services

Subject Categories



Within traditional American public colleges and universities, there is an emphasis on academic student success within the structures and values of educational programs, and the lack of a holistic approach to higher education may be negatively impacting college student development and well-being. By balancing academic knowledge with other areas of knowledge, including a heightened sense of community and mental and emotional well-being, higher education can cultivate students who apply their skills with reduced stress, a sense of belonging, and freedom of expression. This qualitative phenomenological study seeks to identify characteristics, educational priorities, and programming approaches of university student service programs and the perspectives leaders that shape the meaning of holistic student development. Using three primary methods of data collection – surveys, interviews, and document review – the researched explored the following questions: 1) What programs exist at a university that provide holistic student development opportunities? 2) What are some existing approaches to program activities that help students develop holistically? 3) How do educational values and priorities that inform these programs relate to holistic approaches to student development in higher education? 4) What barriers do these programs face? and 5) How do leaders in higher education student service programs define holistic well-being? The findings of this research provided evidence that stress, anxiety, isolation, and trauma are all existing challenges for college students today. The findings of this research identified three student service programs, that were affinity-based groups, that demonstrated the greatest qualities of non-academic holistic student development opportunities, values, and approaches. It became evident that the perspectives of leaders provide a variety of approaches that can support students holistically including building community, nourishing cultural values, connecting students with nature, advising through the narrative approach, and advocating for student voices. Root causes of student challenges such as isolation and lack of community need to be addressed by creating programs in higher education that help develop student holistic well-being. To accomplish this, university leadership must focus on creating safe spaces for diverse student voices to be heard, provide more funding for affinity-based programs, and most of all, understand the role of higher education in the development of student holistic well-being.

Citation Style




To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.