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Reviewed by:
  • Student Engagement in Higher Education: Theoretical Perspectives and Practical Approaches for Diverse Populations
  • Jillian Kinzie
Student Engagement in Higher Education: Theoretical Perspectives and Practical Approaches for Diverse Populations. Edited by Shaun R. Harper and Stephen John Quaye. New York: Routledge, 2009, 368 pages, $45.95 (softcover)

The concept of student engagement has quickly gained salience in higher education as a powerful way to envision a high quality undergraduate experience that fosters student success. Although student engagement is a straightforward notion firmly grounded in decades of research on what matters to student learning and development, it is in no way a universal conception of the undergraduate experience. Student engagement falls short in terms of attending to issues regarding the quality of educational activities and the extent to which all students benefit in the same ways from engagement. In Student Engagement in Higher Education, the editors crafted a volume that addresses some of these shortcomings by elaborating the needs of diverse students and exposing problematic engagement trends among these populations. Every chapter offers practical guidance for institutions willing to accept their responsibility for the engagement of all students. The authors strive to modernize a tested construct and build a more relevant theoretical and practical base for diverse student populations in higher education.

Editors Shaun R. Harper and Stephen John Quaye have assembled a talented troupe of authors with experience in an array of postsecondary institutions—many as administrators, some as scholars, but all as practitioners—to share their insights into how to work effectively with diverse student populations. Each of the 16 jointly authored chapters offers a unique perspective on a particular population of students. The chapters share a similar structure of stating the problem, reviewing theoretical foundations, and concluding with innovative strategies and practical suggestions for institutions seeking to optimize engagement for all students.

In titling chapter 1, “Beyond Sameness, with Engagement and Outcomes for All” the editors make plain their pledge to move beyond treating all students the same and to instead create conditions in the environment that take into account the particular needs of diverse student populations. This chapter provides a comprehensive and practical introduction to the subject of this volume. One of the most important points made in the opening [End Page 471] chapter is the importance of placing the onus for student engagement on faculty, staff and administrators. Because engagement is defined as a measure of institutional quality, it is incumbent upon institutions to be intentional about creating educationally engaging learning environments.

The psychosocial and transition issues of international students are comprehensively addressed in chapter 2 by Anderson, Carmichael, Harper and Huang. The authors outline the fundamental challenges faced by international students including academic, sociocultural and dietary issues, and offer transition theory and the framework of surprise and sense making as approaches to understanding the international student experience. According to Nichols and Quaye, the authors of chapter 3, the needs of students with disabilities are largely unnoticed and often neglected at most college campuses. The discussion in this chapter focuses squarely on the barriers that impede the academic and social engagement of students with disabilities. The theories discussed elaborate the view that educators shift from a deficit-minded orientation of students with disabilities to a view of students as capable.

The authors of chapter 4 assert that the needs of LGBTQ students must be understood by situating their identity development within a heterosexist culture and homophobic collegiate environment. Schueler, Hoffman, and Peterson outline appropriate identity theories that educators should keep in mind as they support LGBTQ students coming to understand themselves and confront the overwhelming societal view that privileges heterosexuality. The chapter closes with innovative strategies for creating a safe and engaging campus for LGBTQ students and an inspiring image of the student experience at a campus at which these strategies were implemented.

Chapter 5 discusses the ways in which students from minority religious groups are isolated and marginalized on many campuses. Authors Mahaffey and Smith explain that although contemporary campus climates seem to be more receptive to issues of spirituality, with some student affairs educators openly addressing issues of religion, students from minority religious groups face a host of issues that their Christian and...


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