Responding to multiple events in 2020: A qualitative study exploring areas of growth and development among California college students

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Journal of American College Health




In 2020, the US was consumed by the COVID-19 pandemic and racial justice protests. California was further compounded by a devastating fall wildfire season. Negative effects related to these events have been documented in research. Objective: This study sought to expand the literature by exploring areas of personal growth and development among college students with a lens on the impact of these three events. Methods: A diverse group of undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in a large public university system in California were recruited to participate in one of six focus groups held during the winter of 2020/2021 with 35 students. Findings: Thematic analysis was used to develop three themes: 1) experiencing fluctuation and repetition, 2) understanding myself and the world, and 3) finding hope and wanting action. Conclusions: Findings suggest opportunities for academic institutions to enhance critical thinking about contemporary issues and support students in developing skills to navigate change and transition successfully.


College student health, coping, COVID-19, growth and development


Public Health and Recreation