- Student Engagement in Higher Education: Theoretical Perspectives and Practical Approaches for Diverse Populations
It would be hard to find anyone working in American colleges and universities who would disagree that the demographics of higher education are changing. As our nation becomes increasingly diverse, so do our college campuses. Indeed, the National Center for Education Statistics (2009a) reports that the percentage of college students of color increased from 15% of all students at degreegranting institutions in 1976 to approximately 32% in 2007. Further, NCES (2009b) projections suggest that the growth in college-going rates by students of color will continue to outpace the increase in college-going rates of White students. Clearly, students who were virtually absent from higher education less than 40 years ago are more visible in classrooms and residence halls.
These demographic changes have been greeted by many as a positive development, holding the potential of promoting a deeper level of learning and development (Gurin, Dey, Hurtado, & Gurin, 2002; Milem, 2003). While the students are changing, however, Shaun Harper and Stephen Quaye suggest that colleges and universities have not. They begin Student Engagement in Higher Education by reminding us that colleges and universities continue to be organized and structured in ways that reflect the demographics of earlier generations—student bodies which were largely White, heterosexual, wealthy, and Christian. Although many scholars have highlighted the ways in which traditionally underrepresented and underserved students have been marginalized on college campuses (e.g., Rankin & Reason, 2005; Reason & Rankin, 2006), little guidance exists about what should or could be done to allow campuses to engage the full range of students in the community in thoughtful ways. [End Page 599]
Student Engagement in College gives institutional leaders, faculty members, policymakers, and student affairs professionals concrete advice on how to create more inclusive campus environments in which students from a variety of backgrounds feel comfortable and can learn from one another. The editors note the importance of student engagement, describing it as a combination of time spent and effort expended by students in curricular and co-curricular activity. Although readers can debate the relative responsibility of individual students for their own engagement, Harper and Quaye intentionally and provocatively place the onus for student engagement on the institution. In so doing, they emphasize how important it is for institutions to take responsibility for engaging a diverse student body and to make intentional efforts to create an environment in which all students can find meaningful places to invest time and energy.
Forty-one authors contributed to this text, most of them academic or student affairs administrators, not faculty. Clearly, they bring a wealth of practical and scholarly experience to each chapter. The authors write from their own perspectives as students in American higher education supported by research and professional experiences. In many ways, this text also represents the best practice in the mentoring of young scholars, as most authors were enrolled in the higher education doctoral program at the University of Southern California at the time the book was written. Harper and Quaye have also included several first-time authors in the long tradition of scholar-practitioners in higher education.
The chapters tackle the challenges of specific student groups, including students with disabilities; Black males; low-income, first-generation students; and students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or questioning their sexual identities. This text is certainly impressive in its level of comprehensiveness. While it is hard to be inclusive of all groups when discussing diversity, this volume manages to avoid the common misrepresentation of “diversity” as being about race and ethnicity alone, instead offering insight into many student communities. The consequence of breadth is often a sacrifice in depth; greater attention to the differences within communities of color or the intersection of student multiple identities would make this text even more useful to scholars and practitioners.
Each chapter of this edited volume approximately follows the same structure, beginning with an introduction...