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Journal of College Student Development 45.2 (2004) 261-262
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In the field of higher education and student services in particular, there is a special respect for someone who held the senior student affairs position on his campus for as long as Arthur Sandeen. This longevity brings wisdom and insight that Sandeen has shared through well-written books and articles and articulate seminars and speeches. His long tenure in the profession of student affairs has also given him hundreds of stories about students. Arthur Sandeen combines his eloquence and humor to produce Enhancing StudentEngagement on Campus. His passion for the field and compassion for students shines through each student encounter. We are the wiser for having read this book since each story is a lesson learned.
If you don't love students - their traumas, dreams, and sagas - then this is not the book for you. Nor, for that matter, is the student affairs profession. Sandeen has written a little book that fills a big void in the curricular offerings for graduate students in our field. The book is also a heart warming reminder to senior members of the field that you are not too busy or important to spend time with students, listening to their stories and mentoring them in every way. Sandeen's book not only makes you want to do this, but he insists you have to do it to be good in your work. For the mid-level managers who may have lost their way in the profession, caught between student life and administrative necessities, Sandeen helps us push it all aside with the phrase, "The essence of good college leadership is the heart."
The most important message in this book is regarding student-institutional relationships. Sandeen's message to everyone in higher education is that "if colleges and universities could really know their students, understand how they live, where they are from, and what they believe, the quality of their educational programs could be significantly improved." Enhancing Student Engagement on Campus is sure to be included with other student centered works ranging from Richard Light's Making the Most of College to Randy Mitchell's Fables, Labels, and Folding Tables.
This is a book of short accounts of his actual, hands-on experiences with students. Organized into five chapters, the first is "Student Creativity and Antics." In case you ever wondered, students do note your absence from their events. In case you thought you were the only person who gets invited to keynote a student banquet one hour before the event, this book will assure you that you are not alone.
In chapter two, "Misconceptions and Stereotypes," we are easily reminded and convinced that assigning labels to students perhaps makes interesting reading, but it is misleading, inaccurate and unfair. The humor of chapter one is replaced with poignant confrontations with fraternity bashing, student activists, and dumb jocks.
Chapter three, "On the Horns of a Dilemma," strikes to the heart of our work with so many students transitioning from the expectations of family to owning their "own" future. We will all relate to the trials of a student named Jim who wants to pursue his own passion. You will also find the story of a sweet old grandmother who seeks, unsuccessfully, to corrupt our author.
Chapter four, "Observations and Issues," [End Page 261] places students at the center. Stories abound about presidents and students, students' satisfaction, and retention. It is Sandeen's discussion of "reference points" that sticks with the reader. We know that each generation of students has a common event that becomes a reference point for them in their lives. Pinpointing and acknowledging that point for each generation of students is a tool Sandeen teaches us to honor and use.
Chapter five, "Insight and Inspirations," is profound and at its best when we all learn a lesson from an African-American student and a Jewish faculty member. Sandeen seals the message with the story of their encounter. If...