Exploring Administrative Staff Members' Sense of Purpose in Selected Catholic University Settings

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Jessica Kimmel


Esmerelda de los Santos


Dorothy Ettling


David Jurenovich


Sharon Herbers


This qualitative study explored the phenomenon of a sense of purpose as perceived by 12 administrative staff members working in the faith-based environments of three selected Catholic universities in southwest Texas. For this phenomenological study, purposive sampling was chosen in order to identify the primary participants. Participants chosen were six male and six female mid-level administrative staff members who self-identified as having a strong sense of purpose in their work and lives. Through face-to-face semistructured interviews, participants were asked to describe their sense of purpose, how they attained it, maintained it, and if it ever changed. The data collected revealed striking similarities in the characteristics and experiences of the participants. Five prominent themes emerged as rationale and sources of support for participants' sense of purpose: (a) Helping others, (b) Meaningful work, (c) Family and Organizational relationships, (d) Commitment to personal values, and (e) Spirituality/faith/God. How participants first realized their sense of purpose revealed significant patterns that were identified as Pathways to a Sense of Purpose and is presented as a conceptual model. Findings suggest that above all, having a sense of purpose involves serving others and making the world a better place. However, the spirituality/faith/God factor was always the common purpose, and in all cases, was reported to be present before the phenomenon was experienced. The significance of the faith-based environment and organizational culture of the Catholic university in fostering and nurturing a sense of purpose is discussed as well as the role of the spirituality/faith/God factor. Implications are discussed on how corporate organizations might improve employee satisfaction and foster a sense of purpose as well as recommendations for further research. This research established that the perception and belief in God was the core foundation to giving the participants guidance, hope, and a strong sense of purpose. Moreover, it emphasizes the importance of initiating dialogue around the critical questions surrounding faith in the workplace and the relationship of how God and work might coexist to produce the goods and services that sustain industry as well as meet the needs of the human spirit.

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