- Serving Diverse Students in Canadian Higher Education by C. Carney Strange and Donna Hardy Cox
In 2010, C. Carney Strange and Donna Hardy Cox edited Achieving Student Success, an introduction to student support services within Canadian higher education institutions. Written by practitioner scholars from across the country, it was the first time such an exhaustive description of the field in Canada had been published. Strange and Hardy Cox assembled a follow-up volume in 2016 called Serving Diverse Students in Canadian Higher Education. This book explores the identities and needs of the increasingly diverse student population attending Canadian post-secondary institutions and interacting with our student support services. It is an overview and starting point for staff, administrators, and faculty who want to understand our students' lived experiences and how our policies and practices affect students' holistic success. Serving Diverse Students challenges higher education practitioners to respond creatively and equitably to the demands of the twenty-first-century student body, from the recruitment stage through to graduation and beyond.
The first section of the book focuses on changes in enrolment patterns, the diversification of students in Canadian post-secondary education, and the theories that can support student success. Though we are still largely dependent on developmental theories derived from the US context, Strange argues that Canadian educators should embrace the emerging third wave of theories as tools that "have begun to explore the complexity of identity development and expression" to inform a "more effective understanding and practice."
The next section includes chapters about students who identify as Aboriginal, Black, francophone, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, international, and first-generation as well as mature adult [End Page 210] learners and students with disabilities. Each chapter, written by Canadian subject-matter experts, opens with a scenario about the lived realities of people who claim these identities. This serves to activate readers' empathy and curiosity. Up-to-date quantitative and qualitative data, definitions, theories, and models effectively illustrate the history and current landscape of students' experiences with support services, including issues, challenges, and innovative solutions. Examples of best practices for supporting students with various intersectional identities are highlighted from all types of institutions across the country. Additionally, the authors and editors make multiple calls for further research from within the Canadian context.
The inclusion of the chapter called "Navigating Group Rights in Diverse Campus Communities" has never been more relevant for Canadian post-secondary education than it is today. Chapter author Jim Delaney examines the complex task of balancing group and individual rights on campus through eight case studies. He also outlines the conceptual model used by the University of Toronto to navigate scenarios where freedom of speech is at odds with the institution's "responsibility to expose hate and address it for what it is – a crime."
The final section clearly articulates Strange and Hardy Cox's conclusions and calls to action for Canadian post-secondary education "to become a positive and transformative opportunity for students of diverse backgrounds." They offer eight principles for institutions to understand and adapt to students' changing needs and to create learning communities in which all members feel included, safe, and actively engaged.
I would argue that there is a need to reframe the conversation further, as it is still controlled by those of us who represent a mostly homogeneous majority educated within an arguably flawed system. How do post-secondary scholars and practitioners examine their personal foundations and knowledge base while they transform the ways our institutions support students? Furthermore, how do they define so-called universal truths about student success? By way of example, Ryerson University's student affairs division has committed to understanding Indigenous ways of knowing and being, starting with talking circles led by their campus Elder, in order to shift the colonial attitudes present in their policies and practices. If, as this book's editors say, the fundamental structures of our colleges and universities are based on practices intended to serve "the socially privileged and powerful," we need to consider critically if...