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The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted campus life in a manner never before seen by higher education professionals causing them to adapt, reframe, and provide support to students in colleagues while navigating the unknown world of the pandemic themselves. To better understand the effect COVID-19 may have on higher education professionals, this study introduces a conceptual form of connective trauma experience in the form of communal pervasive trauma. This research study looked at: (1) How does COVID-19 affect higher education professionals’ relationship with their work? And (2) What effects does a pervasive communal traumatic experience, such as COVID-19, have on higher education professionals? Utilizing a phenomenological approach, 9 mid to high-level higher education professionals across three different institutions in the Midwest, Mountain, and Pacific regions and varying functional areas were interviewed. Results indicate an explorative developmental experience with one’s work across the pandemic, feelings of exhaustion from impossible expectations and limited resources, and personal disconnection and grief of sense of community and identity outside of work. This study provides implications for higher education and student affairs in supporting their often overworked staff, notions of healing after tragedy, and how to continue functioning once the pandemic has ceased.

Academic Advisor

Graham Hunter

Academic Department(s)

Educational Administration

Degree Pursued


Pervasive Communal Trauma in Higher Education: The Effects of COVID-19 Trauma on U.S. Higher Education Professionals