Book Reviews

Book by: Daryl G. Smith
Review by: Kiana Shiroma
Pre-Health/Pre-Law Advising Center
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

According to Daryl Smith in Diversity’s Promise for Higher Education, “Diversity is” (p. ix), meaning that the question higher education leaders should have is not whether they should pursue diversity, as diversity is already prevalent on postsecondary campuses across the nation. Instead, the questions that should be asked should relate to how to create a campus in which diversity is fostered and supported. In this book, Smith aims to answer these questions.

There are four parts in Diversity. In the first section, Smith describes her own perspective and framework of diversity. Smith also provides a thorough overview of the historical context of diversity nationally and globally and the various aspects that comprise the concept of diversity.

Part 2 continues to review diversity, focusing on how it has evolved for postsecondary education in the United States. Within this section, data of the past fifty years are assessed. Although the statistical analysis of the disparities between the larger racial and ethnic groups is thorough, the figures and research regarding the significant differences in retention and graduation among the smaller populations within these categories need to be addressed. For example, Smith noted that the Asian American (AA) / Pacific Islander (PI) 2005 cohort had the highest six-year graduation rate at four-year institutions at 69 percent. However, when the same dataset of this AAPI grouping is broken down further into AA and PI classifications, large differences can already be viewed with the graduation rate for AAs being 70 percent and PIs being 49 percent (National Center for Education Statistics, 2012). This larger AAPI categorization is problematic, as it can reinforce the “model minority myth”, which is possibly one of the most pervasive racial stereotypes of AAPIs, as it casts them as a monolithic group of people who excel academically and professionally at universal and unparalleled rates (Museus, 2014; Museus & Kiang, 2009). To avoid these misconceptions, the data needs to be further examined and analyzed.

The third part of the book pulls research from different branches of knowledge to discuss significant areas for building institutional capacity for diversity. This section also explores the need for colleges and universities to diversify their faculty, particularly in race, ethnicity, and gender, and how to go about recruiting and retaining faculty from different backgrounds. This information can be applied to the selection process for academic advisors and their retention, especially for the postsecondary institutions that seek to increase the diversity of their academic advisors.

In the final section of the book, Smith provides theoretical recommendations on how to build capacity for diversity. Providing specific strategies for postsecondary institutions can be difficult given their unique and specific missions and cultures as the more distinct the advice is, the less relevant it may be to some colleges and universities. This issue was definitely encountered as general recommendations related to assessment and the measurement of progress were outlined as opposed to specific ways in which to create change. However, Smith’s suggestions of possible indicators of each aspect of her framework could be found helpful by advisors, administration, faculty, and staff. The inclusion of how exactly to use the data gathered through assessment and evaluation and specific examples of best practices of various institutions would help this work be stronger and more useful than it already is.

Diversity’s Promise for Higher Education: Making It Work (2nd ed.). (2015). Book by Daryl G. Smith. Review by Kiana Shiroma. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. 358 pp. Price $32.95, (Paperback), ISBN 978-1-4214-1734-9.
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