When worlds collide: Students, stress and the Student Affairs understanding, interpretation and response

Geneva M Walker-Johnson, University of Pennsylvania


Adolescents experience varying degrees of anxiety and frustration during the college attending years. The purpose of this research was to identify the most prominent stress related issues high achieving college age women attending highly selective liberal arts institutions face. Utilizing the focus group method, fifteen sophomore and junior students at Wellesley College were asked to identify the issues they considered most stressful, how they responded to those issues and the resources they utilized in seeking their resolution. Professional staff in the Division of Student life was interviewed to determine how the students presented these issues to them, the staff's perception of their response effectiveness and the needs they identified as important to successfully addressing these issues. A review of the literature provided substantive information on the major student development theories, the evolution of research on women's development and the importance of understanding women's ways of learning and knowing and the implications for goal attainment, and finally, the history and development of women's colleges and important insights into the success of these institutions in educating women. As a result of the focus group discussions, the most prominent stress-related issues the students identified fell into three major themes: achieving academic success, managing relationships with their parents and achieving a sense of balance among competing issues. In response to the question about whom they turned to for support, peers and classmates were most frequently cited because of their familiarity with the campus culture and the issues related to living in a highly competitive, academically rigorous community. This presented a challenge for the professional staff in their attempts to identify and respond to the students' issues before they reached crisis proportions. The professional staff identified several emerging trends across the student population. Among them were increases in students stress about their academics, misuse of the Internet, intervention of parents in the affairs of the students and institutional expectations that they do more with less. Recommendations focus on providing avenues and activities that promote effective management of stress.

Subject Area

Higher education|Academic guidance counseling|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Walker-Johnson, Geneva M, "When worlds collide: Students, stress and the Student Affairs understanding, interpretation and response" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3124702.