Department of Educational Administration


First Advisor

Stephanie Bondi

Date of this Version


Document Type



Rahl, C. (2023). The Gendered Experience of Female Resident Assistants


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Educational Administration, Under the Supervision of Professor Stephanie Bondi. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2023

Copyright © 2023 Christa Rahl


This paper sought to answer, “What is it like to be a female resident assistant (RA) in a society that has historically privileged men?” I structured this as a phenomenology within the transformative paradigm. I interviewed four participants twice with a prompt between interviews and one participant once. These participants were at least 19 years old and had held been an RA for at least one school year during the last five years.

I worked in the realm of Joan Acker’s (1990) theory of gendered organizations. I specifically had findings within the constructions she wrote about such as the division of labor, the division of allowed behaviors, and organizational logic. This theory was the backbone for my interviews and the way in which I studied the data. From these interviews, I found several essences. These include women being expected to connect with their residents through stronger relationships than males, the stereotype of women enjoying arts and crafts more than men inundating housing departments, men having more relaxed rules than women, women taking the role as a mothering figure where men are seen as a friendly authority, and women being expected to host stronger events than men.

These findings led to my conclusion that several areas within housing departments and campuses could be changed. For example, resident directors (RDs) should do internal check-ups to ensure they have equitable expectations for their male and female RAs. It is also my recommendation that the full staff of RAs is adequately trained in mental health crises to ensure each staff member feels comfortable engaging in mental health incidents. I also encourage RAs to allow themselves to stand up for themselves to be treated equitably.

This connects to the literature because research has shown the RA role is increasingly difficult and men and women have different experiences. Housing departments can find areas to check in with their staff to ensure they are treating their RAs with respect and equitable expectations.

Adviser: Stephanie Bondi