Thriving through relationships : exploring the influence of interactions on college student success for living-learning community students.
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Erck, Ryan W., 1990-
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College student interactions have long been categorized around academic and social domains of students’ lives. Studies of interactions also often omit how professional campus staff are involved. In addition to including the influence of staff, recent scholarship (Sriram et al., 2020) presents deeper life interactions (addressing meaning, purpose, and deeper elements of conversation) as a needed construct. Despite decades of research, student success theory is also typically bifurcated into social and academic areas. Schreiner (2010a) supplements this with a more holistic depiction: thriving, or optimal functioning related to academic engagement and performance, interpersonal relationships, and intrapersonal well-being. As campus residential settings are primed as laboratories to explore the ways students interact with others and their environment, this quantitative study sought to focus on the experiences of living-learning community students. Weaving together the above areas, this was pursued through the questions: Do social, academic, and deeper life interactions with peers, faculty, and staff influence thriving for living-learning community students? If so, what is a model that can explain the relative strength of the effects on five thriving factors? Participants included 903 undergraduates in livinglearning communities at eight US research universities. The sample was predominately female (70.3%), White (64.4%), first-year students (73.9%). Structural equation modeling (SEM) was employed to detect specific pathways of how interactions predict factors of thriving. The final model indicated acceptable model fit [χ2 = 3147.083 (df = 1195, p < .001), CFI = .946, RMSEA = .043] and explained 51% of the variance in Engaged Learning, 51% of the variance in Academic Determination, 47% of the variance in Social Connectedness, 54% of the variance in Diverse Citizenship, and 28% of the variance in Positive Perspective. Individual interaction variables were able to predict thriving factors in unique ways with moderate to strong effects. Recommendations for practice include the need to (1) foster deeper life interactions, (2) encourage living learning community participation, (3) create opportunities for interactions across campus, (4) tailor programming to promote interactions with professional staff, and (5) consider how success should be measured holistically.