- Where I Am From: Student Affairs Practice From the Whole of Students' Lives
Where I Am From is a reflective narrative on the experiences of students who participated in the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Undergraduate Fellows Program and how their experiences should be utilized in the application of theory and practice. The NASPA Undergraduate Fellows program is a semi-structured mentoring program for undergraduate students wishing to explore and better understand the field of student affairs and/or higher education. Students and mentors apply as a pair, and if selected are provided the foundation to establish a semi-structured mentoring relationship at their institution. Students, once selected, are known as Fellows, and are also given the opportunity to attend a national conference, participate in paid internships, and participate in the NASPA Summer Leadership Institute.
The mission of the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program is to increase the number of persons of ethnic-minority, persons with disabilities, and/or persons who identify as LGBT in student affairs and higher education.
At the time of data collection for this text, the program was officially called the NASPA Minority Undergraduate Fellows Program. The name officially changed from Minority to National to become more inclusive of underrepresented populations beyond race or ethnicity. However, for this text the term Minority Undergraduate Fellow was utilized.
The authors of the text were facilitators at the Summer Leadership Institute for the fellows and had them complete a writing exercise entitled "Where I am From." The depth and richness of the responses led the authors to write this text to share the voices of the fellows and discuss the implications they bring to the practice in student affairs.
Divided into two sections with eleven chapters, the first half focused on the students' narratives and the second section is dedicated to the application of the students' experience to theory and practical application. The introduction frames the text and operationally defines the author's notion of "voice" for understanding the narratives. They also lay out the organization of the book and the setting for the interviews.
The first six chapters focus on the narratives of the students divided by the themes that rose out the data. In chapter 1, "Family, Neighborhoods, Love, Disappointment, and History," students share information on their upbringing and home lives. Through vivid language the students paint pictures of their upbringings and their home life. The students openly discuss obstacles faced and the impact on their current lives. Through "Multiculturalism, Multilingualism, Identity," the students discuss the impact of the multiplicity within their identity. Within the chapter the students with multiple backgrounds share how those identities merge and exist in their life. They all effectively articulated the multiplicity and the instances of rejection from mainstream aspects of society. They share about the richness of the cultures, familial roles and relationships, and their subsequent growth. [End Page 633]
"Celebration, Hope, Survival, Flawless, Dreams, Determined," the third chapter delves into their personal feelings and experiences. With brutal honesty each narrative appears to open wounds and provide a release of sharing life experiences. A sense of celebration and pride are also shared through these narratives. "Bridges, Looking Back/Looking Forward, From Here and There, "the next chapter contains narratives of reflection in which the students connect their past experiences to their current experiences. Throughout this chapter the students seem to revel in their past and understand how it has shaped them. Chapter 5, "Brilliant, Talented, Strong, Perseverance, and Persistence," depicts the hope and inner strength possessed. As one student stated, "I am from a divergent world of those who haven't gone anywhere and those who forget where they have come from" (p. 57). Additionally, there were strong descriptions of their homes and the geography. Articulation of religion, sexuality, and feelings of isolation are communicated. The students also speak of the hope that has sprung in their life as a result of their past, even the negative aspects. "Freedom and Running to, Not...