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Debunking the Myth of Job Fit in Higher Education and Student Affairs

reviewed by Cliff Haynes - December 02, 2019

coverTitle: Debunking the Myth of Job Fit in Higher Education and Student Affairs
Author(s): Brian J. Reece, Vu T. Tran, Elliott N. DeVore & Gabby Porcaro
Publisher: Stylus Publishing, LLC., Sterling
ISBN: 1620367882, Pages: 264, Year: 2019
Search for book at Amazon.com

At some point in all student affairs educators’ careers, they will be part of a search committee with the task of finding the best person for a position. Debunking the Myth of Job Fit in Higher Education and Student Affairs challenges us to think about the processes we use to determine “best.” The structure of the book provides for a logical flow; however, the book challenges readers to reflect with each chapter.

The first chapter discusses the concept of fit and the use (and misuse) of the term in the field. The editors do not provide one definition of fit, for that would only perpetuate the myth of fit. Instead, the authors of each chapter define and describe fit from their own perspective, with the unifying caveat that they use a critical lens in which to examine fit. This provides the reader with a variety of perspectives through which to view the concept.

Chapters 2 and 3 view the concept from the institutional perspective. Nguyễn and Ward employ critical race theory in Chapter 2 to review a sample case. They use existing statutory and case law that affects hiring and employment practices as a reminder that the law does not guarantee that inclusion is built into the process. Kavaliauskas Crain and Shepard use critical theories in Chapter 3 to explore the National Study of the Student Affairs Job Search; their chapter examines search committee chair perspectives on the definition of fit when they saw the concept used in their search committee.

Chapters 4–9 view the concept of fit from a more individual perspective, often in the form of qualitative counternarratives, to challenge the concept of fit. In Chapter 4, Bennett et al. use their personal narratives as a way to explore the inequality regimes within higher education that privilege certain ideals and prevent others from presenting their authentic selves. Ardoin and Martinez use Yosso’s (2005) community cultural wealth model in Chapter 5 to explore classism within the job search, within supervision, and within the concept of networking to question modes of the socialization process within the field. In Chapter 6, Garrett and Turman question why, how, and if Black women are ever given full access. They combine critical race feminism and community cultural wealth to explore Black women’s experiences in the job search and onboarding process. Browning and Palmer use authenticity as a lens in Chapter 7 to critically look at how predominantly White institutions have been organized and institutionalized systems that limit professionals of color from presenting their authentic selves in ways that allow them to truly thrive in the work environment. In Chapter 8, Venable, Inselman, and Thuot use critical trans politics as a framework to explore how trans professionals resist and disrupt institutional cisgenderism using their personal accounts while also helping to grow the literature on the trans student affairs educators at work. In Chapter 9, Ashlee challenges White staff to question the implicit bias built into the hiring process by using critical Whiteness studies to truly transform higher education for the future.

The gift this book provides is that each chapter ends with recommendations for practice and research. Like any strong critical work, all the contributors ask readers to question many so-called truths we might hold about the job search process and other staffing practices; they seek to uncover biases and assumptions and bring about change by asking readers to question the status quo. The book ends with Chapter 10, in which Parrish summarizes the key takeaways from the previous chapters in the form of recommendations for search committees, for faculty and other mentors, and for job seekers.

This book is an excellent read for job seekers, regardless of their career stage. Additionally, those who serve in mentoring roles, whether as formal supervisors or informal advisors, may wish to read this book as a way to help guide novice job seekers through the process. It can also serve as a text for higher education graduate preparation faculty to use in courses or workshops that discuss the job search process, or for courses related to supervision, staffing practices, or leadership in student affairs. Finally, this book can serve as a useful resource for any search committee to collectively read and discuss before the selection process to help remind them of being aware of potential biases they carry and to implement some of the suggested practices to address the assumptions discussed within the chapters.

This book adds to the literature on staffing practices in multiple ways. First, the stories of the contributors come from the field and from voices that, as some of the chapters note, are often missing in other texts and literature. Second, these contributors do not just report the status of the field; they ask us to pause, reflect, and question the status of the field. Finally, the use of multiple critical perspectives can help begin multiple conversations and future research as higher education and student affairs seek to hire and maintain a diverse workforce.

In their seminal work on staffing practices in student affairs, Winston and Creamer (1997) found that:

an excellent student affairs staffing program begins with hiring the right people and placing them in positions with responsibilities that allow them to maximize their skills, knowledge, and talents in the pursuit of student affairs’ purposes. There are no equivalent substitutes for talented and professionally competent staff in a student affairs division of excellence. The first commandment for student affairs administrators, therefore, is to hire the right people. The second commandment is to do it in the right way. (p. 123)

Reece, Tran, DeVore, and Porcaro (2019) provide us with a reminder that nowhere in the research or call for hiring the right people was the mention of fit. Those who choose to follow the myth of fit do so at the risk of their own organizational stagnation.


Winston, R. B., Jr., & Creamer, D. G. (1997). Improving staffing practices in student affairs. San

Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Yosso, T. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69–91. https://doi.org/10.1080/1361332052000341006

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: December 02, 2019
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23149, Date Accessed: 12/8/2019 3:02:17 AM

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About the Author
  • Cliff Haynes
    University of Florida
    E-mail Author
    CLIFF HAYNES is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Higher Education Administration/Student Personnel in Higher Education and the graduate coordinator for the School of Human Development & Organizational Studies in Education at the University of Florida. He serves as the program coordinator for the online Student Personnel in Higher Education masterís degree program. His research typically uses qualitative methodology to explore the student experience outside of the classroom, the graduate student experience, and student affairs at community colleges.
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