- Culture Centers in Higher Education: Perspectives on Identity, Theory, and Practice
Through her scholarship, professional practice, and consulting, Lori Patton has demonstrated the continued viability and necessity of culture centers in higher education. Now, Patton has produced a text "to offer an in-depth understanding of culture centers and their role in higher education" (p. xiv). The contributing authors include noteworthy scholars, emerging scholars, and practitioners who bring their professional experiences and expertise to bear on the topic at hand. This combination of rich theoretical and practical perspectives strengthens the book.
The text is organized in three sections. Part One includes chapters that describe and review the work of race-specific culture centers and each chapter in this section focuses on a particular cultural group. Each chapter concludes with a listing of campus culture centers serving the group highlighted in the chapter and the years they were established. The authors in this section include Adele Lozano (Latino/a culture centers); William Ming Liu, Michael J. Cuyjet, and Sunny Lee (Asian American culture centers); Heather J. Shotton, Star Yellowfish, and Rosa Cintron (an American Indian culture center); and Patton (two Black culture centers). These initial chapters feature reviews of the literature, case studies, and empirical findings. Although providing a rich tapestry of ways to explore and discuss culture centers, the eclectic nature of this section does not lend itself well to readers who may be interested in drawing out parallel information across the student communities discussed. Nevertheless, in their own way, each chapter demonstrates how students in these racial and ethnic groups commonly experience predominantly White campus environments, and the roles culture centers fulfill. These roles include supporting the retention and success of students who identify with these racial and ethnic groups, as well as engaging the broader campus (and in some cases, the local) community in building the awareness, knowledge, and skills necessary to live in a diverse community.
Following this direct exposure to the character and work of culture centers, part 2 engages the reader in considering theoretical perspectives that support the current role and [End Page 172] work of culture centers and provoke their continued future evolution. First, Tara Yosso and Corinda Benavides Lopez use critical race theory to analyze the ways in which campus culture centers serve as "counterspaces" (p. 83), places of cultural resistance for students who are persistently confronted by the "gendered racism" (p. 84) demarcating the experience of attending predominantly White institutions. Chapter 6, by Mary Howard-Hamilton, Kandace Hinton, and Robin Hughes, discusses the relevance of ethnic and racial minority identity theories and environmental theories to understanding "how cultural groups adapt to and coexist with the dominant group" (p. 109). Additionally, the chapter helps frame the role of culture centers to promote critical identity development for all members of the campus community and the contributions of culture centers to transforming campus climates as more inclusive and welcoming. Next, Michael Benitez examines the role of culture centers in critiquing and redefining Whiteness and applies a social justice framework to culture centers on campus. Benitez's chapter clearly and convincingly argues for the relevance of culture centers to promote education and development among majority students as well as "ethnic and racially minoritized" (p. 119) students. His discussion also asserts the necessity for multicultural and race-specific culture centers to be at the forefront of social justice work on campus, particularly to use such spaces to "deconstruct and reconstruct Whiteness in the academy" (p. 128). The chapters in this section help ground the introduction given in part 1 in the critical scholarship that informs the work performed by culture centers on campus.
From the theoretical foundations and future evolution of culture centers, Patton brings us back to the practical in part 3. These chapters review the administrative issues faced by culture centers and culture center staff. In chapter 8, Toby Jenkins applies the tri-sector practitioners model to the work of "cultural practitioners" (p. 139, citing the work of Jenkins & Walton, 2008) in campus...