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Reviewed by:
  • Rentz's Student Affairs Practice in Higher Education
  • William H. Arnold and Donna M. Talbot
Rentz's Student Affairs Practice in Higher Education. (4th ed.) Naijian Zhang & et al.. (Editor) Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publisher, 2011, 507 pages, $69.95 (softcover)

The latest edition of Rentz's Student Affairs Practice in Higher Education, coordinated by a new editor, Dr. Naijian Zhang of Westchester University, arrived 6 years after the release of the previous edition and those familiar with the previous three editions will find the structure and organization of the text very familiar. Each of the 14 chapters within this fourth edition retain the same title as in the third edition; however, while the chapter titles remain the same, most feature primary and secondary authors who have not written in previous editions. According to the editor, those chapters focusing on academic advising, career services, residence halls, student health, and financial aid as well as the afterword have been completely re-written. In addition to these revised chapters, the text includes updated chapters focusing on the following traditional student affairs functional areas: admissions and enrollment management, student conduct, counseling centers, multicultural affairs, orientation, student activities, and student financial aid. The remaining two chapters offer an overview of the historical and philosophical underpinnings of the profession.

Based upon the editor's preface, the mission of writing the fourth edition remains the same as for the previous edition, with the additional intent of providing the reader with "the most recent information on student development and student affairs practice in each area" (p. xiv). Beyond this, however, the preface provides little insight in terms of the impetus for, or value of, this latest release. We struggled with the rationale and need for the 4th edition. This struggle is driven by both the need to justify to graduate students (the primary audience) why we think it is necessary for them to purchase the most current editions of ever-increasingly expensive texts and by the apologetic tone of the preface which included the acknowledgement of the difficulty of "identifying competent and qualified new authors" (p. xiv). Neither elicited anticipation for what the new edition has to offer.

There is no doubt that this type of book is unique and necessary. Unlike any of the other standard texts in student affairs/ services, Student Services: A Handbook for the Profession, 5th edition(Schuh, Jones, Harper, & Associates, 2011) and The Handbook of Student Affairs Administration(McClellan, Stringer, & Associates, 2011), the primary focus of this text is on the functional areas of student affairs, offering an overview of the typical departments in an organizational chart of a student affairs division. In this way, Rentz's Student Affairs Practice in Higher Educationprovides an important historical snapshot of our profession as it transforms itself to meet the needs of changes in demographics and higher education institutions. Unfortunately, the 4th edition of this text did not change remarkably from the 3rd edition. It is possible that adhering to the old structure of the book constrained most opportunities for innovation and transformation. While some of the growing changes in functional areas were briefly highlighted within this [End Page 616]fixed framework, it seemed as if the book did not adequately emphasize the changing landscape of the fundamental work we do in student affairs—those changes begin with our structure. Growing areas in student affairs work (e.g., parent programs, assessment, development, international students and programs, transfer students and programs, offices of disability services, and veteran/ military affairs) were either not included or merely tucked under the existing chapters in student activities and multicultural affairs. The exception was the chapter on health services by Keeling, Avery, Dickson, and Whipple.

In preparation for conducting the current review, we consulted reviews of earlier editions. We were pleased to see that some recommendations were incorporated, specifically those relating to consistently providing references to professional associations within specific functional areas, the respective CAS standards, relevant student development theory, and advances in technology. We do, however, reiterate some of the sentiments expressed by Forney in her 1998 review of the then 2nd edition, specifically the value of condensing some of the historical portions of chapters on...


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pp. 616-618
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