- A Day in the Life of a College Student Leader
Politics. Divided loyalties. Ethical dilemmas. Peer Conflicts. Supervisory Issues. These are just a few of the complexities student leaders must navigate in their daily lives on college campuses. In order to better prepare students to constructively engage in such experiences, Sarah Marshall and Anne Hornak’s book A Day in the Life of a College Student Leader offers a litany of case studies designed to generate meaningful dialogue and critical analysis of realistic campus-based student experiences with leadership. Informed by interviews with over one-hundred undergraduate student leaders and eleven student affairs administrators about real-life leadership dilemmas, these case studies reflect compelling contemporary issues on college campuses and offer provocative questions for reflection and discussion.
A Day in the Life was designed for use by faculty in classroom-based discussions of leadership as well as for student affairs professionals training student leaders in diverse functional roles and contexts. Citing the need of many educators to craft meaningful learning experiences for students, authors Marshall and Hornak promote case studies as an opportunity for students to actively construct and co-construct knowledge that has direct application to their own experiences. The authors wisely commence the book with detailed suggestions for effective use of case studies by faculty or administrators to inform student leadership training, education, and development. They also recommend facilitators themselves develop an informed perspective about their own campus culture, policies and [End Page 135] procedures, before offering guidance to students about navigating these environments. Finally, and perhaps the most overlooked and challenging recommendation, the authors’ suggest that facilitators strive to “model appropriate behavior for students” and “recognize the influence that your behavior has on the impressionable minds of students” (p. 5).
Chapter 1 offers guidance to how to use cases for writing assignments, role plays, large group discussions, small break-out groups, and one-on-one conversations. The authors detail ways cases may be utilized in one-time training or on an on-going basis, such as at the beginning of each meeting of a particular student group. In chapter 2, the authors make a strong case for incorporating student development theory in case analysis. They explain: “The theories associated with college students and their development give us the scaffolding to explain these behaviors as we train leaders and develop programs to facilitate their success” (p. 7).
A detailed example is offered that depicts how a case can be discussed in the absence of student development theory, and then demonstrates how case analysis and synthesis become more complex when intentionally informed by theories such as Astin’s Theory of Involvement (1984), psychosocial theories, theories of cognitive development, and leadership scholarship. While the book does not enumerate which developmental theories are most appropriate for each case, the authors acknowledge “it is ethically appropriate to ground these discussions in a theoretical framework balanced with the appreciation that all students are individuals” (p. 15).
The ensuing chapters of the book (chapters 3 through 11) offer a wide variety of cases organized by functional area. Contexts addressed include: residence life, student government, Greek life, minority/underrepresented groups, orientation/welcome week, activities/programming board, honorary/academic/professional associations, service learning and community engagement, and general leadership cases. Cases presented are realistic across multiple types of institutions, and indeed were informed by interviews at a diverse array of schools. In addition, while some cases focus on just one functional area (such as residence life or orientation) others span multiple areas and address campus wide inputs and consequences. Cases also vary in length and amount of contextual detail provided, making them suitable for a wide variety of training and classroom environments. A helpful chart is provided as part of the book’s front matter that details which cases address particular dilemma areas for student leaders. The book concludes with a chapter of advice for student leaders gleaned as part of the authors’ interviews with experienced student leaders.
This volume clearly addresses a gap in the...