Book Reviews

Book by Sandeen, Arthur and Margaret J. Barr
Review by Sara Miceli
Office of Graduate Studies
University of California – San Diego


In Critical Issues for Student Affairs: Challenges and Opportunities Arthur Sandeen and Margaret Barr pose nine important questions that all student affairs professionals should ask themselves regarding their programs and institutions. The authors not only present important questions facing the field of student affairs, but provide "suggestions for action," a game-plan for overcoming the barriers and shortcomings faced by student affairs professionals within the institutional structure.  

Questions raised range from how student affairs has evolved to where its focus should be to diversity issues faced by both staff and students. The most prominent suggestions for action include establishment of proper staff training modules and the prominence of student services professionals as active players at all levels of the institution, not just within a specific department.

Critical Issues for Student Affairs provides a comprehensive discussion of the challenges facing today’s student affairs professionals. It provides possible solutions to the problems it presents and explores the opportunities available for the field of student affairs to grow and advance. The authors assert the need for proper training and support to retain valuable staff.  Leaders within student affairs need to recognize their position within the organization and how they can become active participants within the educational  process. While diversity is an issue of concern, too many individualized programs can have a negative effect on the same students they intend to benefit.  While student affairs is geared towards helping students, one aspect must not be forgotten: the finances that drive most campus programs. Without funding, programs fail; therefore all leaders must look for their voice within the budgeting process.  Student, parent and legislative expectations of student affairs must be respectful of the boundaries and limits imposed upon student affairs programs. Assessment is a continuous process that should never be ignored.

Since nearly every institution of higher education has a division of student affairs within its organizational structure this book is relevant to every campus in the United States.  Although student affairs has advanced since it’s conception in the late 1800s, today’s leaders are still faced with many issues.

The authors direct their suggestions to student affairs administrators rather than towards the student affairs staff.  As such, junior staff with career ambitions will benefit from reading the book and paying heeding the suggestions as a gauge to how their superiors adapt to the changing nature of their jobs.

The strength of Critical Issues for Student Affairs is its comprehensive discussion surrounding each presented question and its examination of the profession’s evolution since its conception a century ago.  The authors note significant social changes as the turning points for student needs and the institution's responses to those needs.  However, the book focuses it’s suggestions towards the leaders of student affairs, while not addressing junior staff directly.  This one flaw does not negate the importance of the book's suggestions and its proper place within student affairs units as a learning tool for all levels of staff and leaders.


Critical Issues for Student Affairs: Challenges and Opportunities (2006). Book by Sandeen, Arthur and Margaret J. Barr. Review by Sara Miceli. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass. 256 pp. $36.00. ISBN # 0-7879-7657-1
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