- Where You Work Matters: Student Affairs Administration at Different Types of Institutions
In her innovative volume, Joan Hirt undertook a Herculean task.
Student affairs is relatively new field with a scant 70 years of theory and practice upon which to place our current understanding of [End Page 731] the field. In addition to its lack of historical depth (and only a few hundred years of the same for higher education, its parent profession), theorists and scholars in the field rarely write about its history. With the exception of texts from authors such as Robert Schwartz (2002), James Rhatigan (1978), and Jana Nidiffer (2001), there is little written on the history of student affairs. Faculty in graduate preparation programs depend on Rudolph's aging The American College and University: A History (1962/1990), Thelin's A History of American Higher Education (2004), and Lucas' American Higher Education: A History (1994) to help students understand the historical context of student affairs. Because none of these volumes specifically addresses student affairs history as its topic, our understanding of the field's history, origins, and evolution remains incomplete. This situation is changed with Where You Work Matters as Hirt reviews the history of student affairs and higher education by institutional type. Her detailed and research-based account of the ways student affairs practice is realized by institutional types is a welcome addition to the literature.
The Herculean task referred to above includes Hirt's synopsis of six studies: a calendar study of how student affairs professionals spend their time, a national study using the Nature of Professional Life Survey, a community college case study and follow-up, focus group data collected during an association conference, a Historically Black Colleges and Universities Study, and, finally, a Hispanic-Serving Institutions Study. Hirt herself describes the book as "based on data from over 1,100 student affairs professionals employed at hundreds of college and university campuses across the country. It is an initial attempt to explore the student affairs profession in different institutional contexts" (Hirt, 2006, p. 15). The data from these six studies, accompanying historical review, and extensive literature review by institutional type resulted in a richly descriptive, information-filled volume. It is on this last point that readers should take caution. Given the amount of information, the book may be difficult to engage with at first blush. Although appropriate for scholars, advanced professionals, and doctoral students with wide-ranging knowledge of the student affairs literature, this book would be a difficult though worthy read for masters level students and/or new professionals. After the reader becomes familiar with the book's style and discovers his or her individual approach to integrating the book's extensive information, one is rewarded with a wealth of information and knowledge.
While this book makes a significant contribution to the student affairs field, it raises the issue of faculty scholars who purposely or inadvertently write for a limited audience. While Dr. Hirt certainly did not intend to do so (any author would want her book to get the widest readership possible), the copious detail within the book makes it appealing to only the most dedicated of readers.
Hirt's chapters review seven institutional types including ones often overlooked or excluded from conventional histories of higher education. Hirt models and reinforces the increasingly inclusionary practices within higher education by writing about religiously affiliated institutions, historically Black colleges and universities, community colleges, and Hispanic serving institutions. She makes a significant contribution to the student affairs literature by venturing beyond the traditional (and typical in a misplaced normative sense) institutional review of research institutions and liberal arts colleges. With her seamless inclusion, Hirt furthermore role models that institutions such as historically Black and Hispanic-serving institutions are part and parcel of U.S. higher education—not an add on or special case. The treatment of historically [End Page 732] Black colleges and universities was particularly well-researched, complete, and informative.
Hirt adds to the readability and digestibility of her wealth of information by...