Book Reviews

Book by Peter M. Magolda & Marcia B. Baxter Magolda (Eds.) 
Review By: Matthew Church
Arts & Sciences Advising
University of Louisville

Magolda and Baxter Magolda (2011) address two main questions: how do graduate preparation program faculty prepare future student affairs educators to address the complexities of higher education?, and what kinds of continuing education opportunities do divisions of students affairs offer to optimize staffs’ effectiveness with students and colleagues (xv). The text is divided into four sections, addresses twenty- four contested student affairs issues and covers such diverse issues as social networking, accountability, and social justice. An excellent resource for student affairs practitioners the text is particularly relevant to academic advising.

The topic of consumerism in higher education is very applicable to advising and centers on the idea of students as customers. The essay on consumerism identifies a disconnect between the business model and learning promotion. The author notes that the business model focuses on outcomes and efficiency, increasing institutional responsibility and lessening student responsibility for their education. The conclusion is that practitioners must be educators and not service providers and students must be involved in the learning experience. From an advising standpoint, the issue of education and consumerism reinforces the need for developmental advising.

Another applicable topic is whether to allow students to fail. The essay centers on external pressures that decry opportunities for failure and potential benefits from failure. The fear of failure combined with the view of higher education as a financial investment deprives students of the potential benefits of failure. Failure provides opportunity for personal growth and creativity, traits necessary for addressing complex social issues. The authors conclude that through encouragement and scaffolding, student affairs practitioners can play a central role in providing society with future leaders.

Two other relevant topics covered in the text are campus mental health issues and religion and spirituality on campus. The section on mental health issues discusses the increase in the percentage of students using mental health services and that non- counseling center personnel are reluctant to get involved with student mental health issues. The lack of involvement is not due to a lack of desire to help, but to fear of getting something wrong and the potential ramifications. The authors suggest collaboration between student affairs offices and counseling personnel and for all staff to be familiar with ethical and legal guidelines related to mental health. Additionally, the section suggests possibly training “gatekeepers” in different offices to be trained to ascertain and refer issues relating to mental health. In regards to the topic of religion and spirituality, the authors believe all practitioners must understand the difference between religion and spirituality and must not be afraid to discuss spirituality with students. Discussing spirituality goes toward respecting the whole individual.

Summarily, this is an excellent text for academic advisors and addresses numerous applicable issues. The issues of students as customers and allowing students to fail are particularly vital for academic advising. Addressing these issues not only impacts the actions of advisors and their advisees, but shapes the mission and services of every advising office. The topic of mental health is exceptionally important and all offices should develop plans for referral to mental health services. The religion and spirituality section promotes discussion of the role of spirituality in student affairs and how to address it. While not every section of the text applies to advisors, the majority of the essays are very applicable to advising practice in contemporary higher education and could be utilized to start discussions among advisors.


Contested issues in student affairs: Diverse perspectives and respectful dialogue. (2011) Book by Peter M. Magolda & Marcia B. Baxter Magolda (Eds.). Review by Matthew Church. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing. 504 pp., $34.95, (paperback), ISBN # 978-1-57922-584-1.
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