- Understanding the Role of Academic and Student Affairs Collaboration in Creating a Successful Learning Environment (review)
- Journal of College Student Development
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 44, Number 4, July/August 2003
- pp. 568-571
- View Citation
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Journal of College Student Development 44.4 (2003) 568-571
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Understanding the Role of Academic and Student Affairs Collaboration in Creating a Successful Learning Environment. Adrianna Kezar, Deborah J. Hirsch, and Cathy Burak (editors). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002, 121 pages.
Understanding the Role of Academic and Student Affairs Collaboration in Creating a Successful Learning Environment, edited by Kezar, Hirsch, and Burack, is Volume 116 in the series New Directions for Higher Education, whose editor-in-chief is Martin Kramer. This topic is one of great current interest, as colleges and universities of all sizes and missions wrestle with the necessity of aligning the efforts of academic and student affairs professionals in support of institutional goals for student success. While such cooperation has been regularly discussed at annual meetings of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and the American College Personnel Association (ACPA), very few attempts have been made to review the issue comprehensively or even with simultaneous inclusion of the viewpoints of both student affairs professionals and academic professionals. This volume provides information about the state of the discussion, summarizing the various calls to cooperative programming and reprinting "Powerful Partnerships: A Shared Responsibility for Learning" (1998), a joint document prepared by NASPA, ACPA and the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE). The volume also seeks to go beyond this summarization to examine paths to successful cooperation.
The volume consists of eight contributed chapters, including opinion survey results, case studies and lists of best practices. It succeeds admirably in presenting and discussing the issues of student affairs/academic affairs cooperation comprehensively. The discussions show progress in resolving longstanding points of contention, but at the level of implementation, they do not point toward any likely consensus position. While the points of friction between academic affairs professionals and their academic counterparts are handled delicately (in fact, so diplomatically that the uninitiated might not understand the problems), the reader usually can sense the viewpoint of any given chapter's author.
In chapter 1, Donna M. Bourassa, Assistant Executive Director of the ACPA, and Kevin Kruger, Associate Executive Director of NASPA, summarize the work of their two organizations and suggest possible ways to advance cooperative projects on [End Page 568] individual campuses. The chapter concludes by reprinting the Powerful Partnerships document, which contains a useful list of ten principles about learning environments and academic affairs/student affairs collaboration. The review of issues in this chapter raises significant hope that the often contentious discussions may recently have entered a more constructive era. After acknowledging that economic stringency and the very reasonable demands of parents, students, and society at large that universities coordinate their efforts to assure student learning has forced much soul searching within the academy and has resulted, on many campuses, in student affairs offices being assigned to report to the chief academic officer, the authors cite studies of opinion among student affairs professionals, from a variety of reporting structures, that show an evolution toward accepting that the cooperation with academic affairs must proceed, and the sooner the better. The authors report that they have taken an informal survey which indicates that "respondents uniformly conveyed their belief that major inroads in aligning the values and expectations of both groups have been made, lessening the notion that the two groups are working at cross-purposes" (p. 13). One particularly poignant response quoted as the authors further discuss their informal survey asserts:
Previously, the dialog was dominated by notions of inferiority and striving for acceptance in the academy. Journal articles and conference presentations focused on the inferior relationship of student affairs in relation to academic affairs, citing equal contributions of the out-of-class environment to student learning. We have moved from the rhetoric of inferiority to a deeper understanding of our contribution to student learning both in and outside of the classroom. We have accepted that part of our role is to support student learning in very fundamental ways through academic support. We have realized that this cannot only be the work of...