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Journal of College Student Development 44.3 (2003) 438-442
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How Minority Students Experience College: Implications for Planning and Policy Lemuel W. Watson, Melvin C. Terrell, Doris J. Wright, and Associates Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC, 2002, 132 pages, $22.50 (softcover)
In the 20th century, significant contributions were made by members of the higher education community to increase our understanding of the needs and concerns of students of color in traditionally White colleges and universities. We now understand that even though some minority students come to college with limited academic preparedness, it is what occurs within the institutional environment that matters most in determining their academic success (Astin, 1993; Pascarella & Terenzi, 1991). We learned that while all students grow and develop best in academic communities that foster opportunities for involvement both in- and- outside of the classroom (Kuh et al., 1991), validating agents both inside and outside of the institution are sometimes needed for students of color in White institutions because their involvement is often impeded because of issues related to their ethnicity and cultural differences (Rendon, 1994). Finally, we read research reports, attended national conferences, and even participated in various institutional workshops that helped us explore our own biases towards these student groups. From all of these endeavors, we came to understand that no single solution exists to improve the retention and academic success of our growing minority populations. It takes a combination of these initiatives, plus a willingness to listen to those we spend our time and resources attempting to help, which is precisely what How Minority Students Experience College: Implications for Planning and Policy provides: the experiences of minority students in their own words. The book represents one of the most recent studies of the new millennium to investigate the status of students of color in traditionally White college and universities with a particular focus on their experiences outside the classroom.
Normally, a preface or introduction of a book would not receive more than a casual mention because either generally only introduces the subject matter, provides the authors' overall intent for the manuscript, identifies the intended audience, and gives a brief description of what the reader will find in each chapter, which is precisely what is included in this preface. What requires more mention, however, is the introduction in the book because of the authors' cleaver use of metaphor to illustrate the similarities between minority students on White college campuses and vegetables in a garden. They describe the garden as the campus environment and liken institutional agents to gardeners who work hard to cultivate each specific vegetable group in the garden. The gardener plants the vegetables according to a well-developed plan, provides appropriate levels of nourishment, monitors the plants' progress, and periodically makes revisions so that each vegetable group develops according to its unique characteristics and needs. The metaphor is an appeal to higher education administrators to develop institutions using well-defined plans for multi-culturalism [End Page 438] so that individual students and student subgroups grow and develop within learning communities that recognize and appreciate their individual ethnic and cultural differences. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the primary research questions and overall significance of the study, which extends the pioneering work of Kuh et al. (1991) on student learning and development outside the classroom, but with a particular concentration on students of color in White institutions.
Chapter 1, "Defining Multiculturalism," will be particularly useful for readers new to the discourse on multiculturalism in higher education. The authors start with a discussion of why many efforts to integrate students of color into existing institutional cultures fail, then offer characteristics of what a multicultural environment is and is not, and provide steps institutions can use to determine whether or not they have adequately considered what is involved in transforming an existing culture into a integrated multicultural campus. To their credit, they use a number of interdisciplinary perspectives to define multiculturalism, which is appropriate because no single definition exist that can encompass the vastness of the...