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Fostering Student Success in the Campus Community


reviewed by Christy Moran Craft & Heather M. Reed - July 07, 2009

coverTitle: Fostering Student Success in the Campus Community
Author(s): Gary L. Kramer, ed.
Publisher: Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco
ISBN: 1933371242, Pages: 512, Year: 2007
Search for book at Amazon.com


In their book, Gary L. Kramer and Associates encourage higher education personnel to align the expectations of students and institutions surrounding desired outcomes of student success, to involve the whole campus community in connecting services to students, to create learning organizations that foster student development, and to put students first in an effort to facilitate their success. In so doing, they provide a review of well-established theories surrounding student success and development while also challenging readers to consider innovative practices that facilitate such success and development among students.


The authors, in the first of four parts of the book, focus upon the importance of communicating expectations surrounding student success. In so doing, their stated purpose is to assist the reader in understanding the shared responsibility that faculty, campus leaders, and policy makers have in creating an environment conducive to student success. In this regard, the authors discuss how demographic changes (e.g., immigration and financial status of students) influence students’ access and their persistence, and they encourage higher education personnel to review institutional data and to create local initiatives to respond to students’ needs. Furthermore, the authors remind readers of key features of student-centered cultures (e.g., clear mission and philosophy, human-scale settings) and provide examples, from the Documenting Effective Educational Practice project (Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh, Whitt, & Associates, 2005), of institutions identified as having such cultures. What is particularly insightful in this portion of the book is the principle of the “psychological contract” (p. 46) that reflects how students’ expectations impact their relationship with the institution. Given the importance of understanding students’ expectations, the authors identify recommended instruments that can be used as tools to identify such expectations, and they encourage college and university personnel to accurately represent their campuses in all publications and websites. Similarly, the authors provide descriptions of various assessment types (e.g., need assessment, satisfaction assessment) to encourage institutions to consider how to change their student services as a result of data gleaned through assessment. Finally, in this first section of the book, the authors address the need to put students first by managing changes that will lead to long-term success. They describe how to build the case for change, emphasizing the impact of political pressure among other influences, as well as how to build support for change (e.g., through hiring for new ways of working).


The second part of the book highlights the need to connect services for students. The authors begin by challenging institutional leaders to consider whether or not they are truly putting students first when making decisions about admissions or if they are focusing too much on institutional rankings. They, then, shift their focus to that of promoting one-stop organizations for the delivery of student services. Within this discussion, the authors highlight the interrelationship of service and technology and suggest the need to establish a “lifetime relationship” with each student by creating a “lifelong digital identity” (p. 139). Furthermore, they provide excellent descriptions of the service expectations of our students along with a reminder about privacy risks associated with learning technologies. The last two chapters within this section focus on academic and career advising. The authors not only underscore the critical role of both upon student success and retention, but also they provide detailed examples of effective academic advising and career counseling services on various campuses.


Fostering student development is the focus of the third section of the book. The authors begin with a discussion of how to apply Baxter Magolda’s Learning Partnerships Model (2004) as a framework for developing and implementing learning outcomes. The examples of two institutions whose student affairs divisions changed their old practice (“seeing students as vehicles for the accomplishment of organizational tasks”) to new practice (“using organizational tasks as a context through which intentional student learning and development are promoted”) were quite insightful (pp. 232-233). After their discussion of learning partnerships, the authors propose the need to create campus communities that are conducive to facilitating students’ search for meaning and purpose in life; excellent reflection questions are provided to assist readers to conceptualize how to create such a community. In thinking about the organization and administration of higher education institutions, the authors described differences in characteristics between traditional, hierarchical institutions and “progressive” (p. 268) institutions. Examples of how progressive paradigms and perspectives have influenced practice at three institutions are given after the authors assert that traditional, hierarchical institutions may actually thwart student success and learning. The “obligation” (p. 321) of institutions to provide professional development for both administrative and instructional faculty is stressed in the last two chapters of this section. In so doing, the authors provide specific examples of how some institutions prepare their service providers through activities such as orientation and off-campus training, and they review research about the positive impact of faculty-student interactions.


Finally, in the last portion of the book, the authors address common themes associated with student-centered practices. Perhaps most interesting is the authors’ contention that institutions need to embrace an expanded student success paradigm in which student success is conceptualized in new ways to include goals other than simply degree attainment. Furthermore, they provide intriguing institutional and policy implications (e.g., expanding the structure of articulation agreements, using a common course numbering system to facilitate transfers) congruent with a new paradigm. Theories and recommended practices concerning student success in the first-year of college as well as at two-year colleges are highlighted in this last section of the book as well. Next, the authors propose six “pathways” (p. 411) to putting students first through academic advising. They conclude the book by including a thorough summary of themes and educational practices that foster student success and by suggesting ten steps that institutions may take to foster student success.

 

Although the authors provide useful insights and suggestions relative to student success, the utility of the book is limited for several reasons. First, much of the information presented has already been detailed in prior publications in the field of higher education, and there is a significant amount of repetition even within the book. Moreover, though the authors propose a need for new paradigms for student success, they fail to move beyond the theories that have characterized the traditional paradigms. For instance, the authors stress that current practices have not resulted in increased retention rates; however, they fail to further the conversation by moving beyond the theories that form the basis of such practices. In particular, they mention technology as being a “tipping point” (p. 120), provide some examples of new technologies, but do not adequately detail the link between such new technology and the new paradigm of student success.

 

Additionally, the role of parents as stakeholders in student success is mentioned only occasionally throughout the book. Though parents and/or guardians are not employed by institutions, nor are they students of the institutions, they increasingly play a role on campus as they participate in orientation and other campus events designed to facilitate student success. A discussion about the role of parents and/or guardians seems critical when proposing a new paradigm for student success. How do parents influence the development of a student-centered culture? What responsibility do they carry, if any, in assisting with the development of such a culture? How might they both facilitate and hinder institutional change efforts?


Throughout various discussions in the book, the authors make recommendations for changes yet fail to adequately detail the challenges associated with them. For instance, they overlook an important dimension of assessment activities: how to manage change after the completion of assessments. Furthermore, when discussing the professional development needs of both instructional and administrative faculty, they miss the mark when choosing not to highlight the fiscal and time-related resource restraints that hinder such efforts. Perhaps most salient to the focus of the book, however, is the reality that institutions might do more harm than good by becoming too student-centered. A discussion of the drawbacks (e.g., too much support rather than challenge) of the focus on student-centered environments would have been both intriguing and useful.


Finally, though the authors attempt to direct the book to a wide array of higher education stakeholders, most of the chapters seem relevant only to a small subset; thus, not every chapter is relevant to every group of stakeholders. Perhaps what would have added value to the book would have been for each of the topics to be discussed through the lenses of each of the primary stakeholders in the realm of student success. For instance, how might all stakeholders (e.g., faculty, student affairs administrators, academic affairs administrators) pursue the critical role of creating an environment conducive to students’ development of a meaning and purpose in life?


In spite of the limitations of their work, the authors do a phenomenal job of encouraging higher education stakeholders to broaden their perspective on how to define student success. In so doing, they review prior research and theories and provide some useful examples. Though the book is written with a broader audience in mind, the individuals most likely to benefit from this book include those who are relatively unfamiliar with the traditional paradigm of student success and/or those with responsibility and/or oversight for academic advising.



Reference


Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J., Schuh, J. H., Whitt, E. J., and Associates (2005). Student success in college: Creating conditions that matter. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.






Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: July 07, 2009
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15709, Date Accessed: 5/28/2022 6:50:06 PM

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About the Author
  • Christy Craft
    Kansas State University
    E-mail Author
    CHRISTY MORAN CRAFT, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Student Affairs at Kansas State University. Her research focuses on issues related to spirituality and religion in higher education. She is currently exploring the impact of religion and philosophy classes upon the faith development of students at a Lutheran college as well as investigating the impact that the religious identity of evangelical Christian faculty has upon their work in public institutions of higher education. Her recent publications include: Moran, C. D., Roberts, C., Tobin, J., & Harvey, L. (2008). Religious expression in residence halls at public colleges and universities: Freedoms and constraints. The Journal of College and University Student Housing, 35(2), 48-61. Moran, C. D., Garrison, J., & Shirkey, D. (2008). Community, freedom, and commitment: Student discipline at religiously-affiliated colleges and universities. Religion & Education, 35(1), 22-42. Moran, C. D. (2007). The public identity work of evangelical Christian students. Journal of College Student Development, 48(4), 418-434.
  • Heather Reed
    Kansas State University
    HEATHER M. REED, M.S., is Assistant Dean and Director of Student Life at Kansas State University. She provides support and services to K-State students, fostering student learning and development to enhance the educational experience. As a member of the Student Life team, she advocates for students, connects students with campus and community support services, is a liaison to family members, and coordinates crisis response. She is the chair of the K-State Crisis Management Committee and has led the development of the new Critical Incident Response Team.
 
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