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  • Putting Students First: How Colleges Develop Students Purposefully
  • Saran Donahoo
Putting Students First: How Colleges Develop Students Purposefully, by Larry A. Braskamp, Lois Calian Trautvetter, and Kelly Ward. Bolton, MA: Anker, 2006. ISBN 1882982940.

To think holistically means to attend to the whole person by addressing issues affecting the mind, the body, and the spirit. While colleges and universities have always provided a great deal of attention to the mind and most now operate recreation and health facilities to attend to the needs of the body, the spirit often receives little or no attention on campus.

In Putting Students First: How Colleges Develop Students Purposefully, Larry Braskamp, Lois Calian Trautvetter, and Kelly Ward explore the idea of holistic student development. Throughout the book, the authors use holistic student development to refer to the ways that institutions help students learn more about who they are, what they want to do, and who they want to become. Essentially, holistic student development attends to the mind, the body, and the spirit.

In defining and illustrating the concept of holistic student development, the book presents data and analysis of 10 private, four-year, church-related colleges in the United States. The authors contend that each of the institutions studied operates from a student-centered perspective that includes attending to their intellectual, physical, and spiritual needs. The authors use what they call the 4C framework—culture, curriculum, cocurriculum, and community—to analyze and describe how colleges can become and remain holistic and student-centered.

The book contains seven chapters. The first chapter explains the rationale for the study, explicates why colleges need to be student-centered, and defines [End Page 234] holistic student development as the authors use the term throughout the book. The second chapter discusses the theoretical foundation for the authors' concept of holistic student development, the project design, and brief descriptions of the institutions in the study. Each of the next four chapters explores one of the 4Cs established by the authors. The book concludes with an overview of the study results, a discussion of the elements most important in establishing an environment that supports and fosters holistic student development, and questions and suggestions for institutions looking to become more student-centered.

The authors' exploration of the 4C framework begins with culture in chapter 3. Within the 4C framework, culture serves as a direct link between the mission and vision of an institution and the activities used to maintain, communicate, and promote these ideals. Culture also includes campus facilities, institution faculty, and the impact each has on its definition and implementation. Believing that the colleges in the study have successfully sustained and brought new faculty and students into their institutional culture, the authors suggest that a successful campus culture fosters holistic student development by providing students with academic and intellectual challenges within an environment that supports and remains connected to students as they endure these challenges. Working from different perspectives, the culture succeeds because all stakeholders promote and perpetuate the same ideals about the institution, which helps to support holistic student development by offering students a common message that reverberates throughout the entire campus.

Curriculum is the second of the 4Cs and includes the academic knowledge as well as the skills and attitudes that institutions expect students to learn. Curriculum helps to communicate campus culture to students by overtly challenging them to expand their intellects while covertly illustrating the hidden curriculum, the unwritten rules that structure college life and enable students to achieve academic success (Smith, 2004). The authors argue that curriculum, beyond course content, also includes learning and knowledge related to the structure of the world, the nature of life, and the definition of self. As such, curriculum is not just about acquiring the academic skills needed to attain a degree. In supporting holistic student development, curriculum also includes helping students to determine who they are, why they are, and what they are meant to do. The authors found that the colleges in their study actively incorporate issues of faith and spiritual development into the academic context. Pedagogical approaches used to achieve this incorporation include community-service and service-learning activities, study abroad and international experiences, and research opportunities...


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pp. 234-237
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