Book Reviews

Book by Virginia N. Gordon & Thomas L. Minnick. Florence
Review by Janice Gunes
Academic Advising, Enrollment and Student Services
The Community College of Baltimore County, Essex Campus
Baltimore, Maryland


“The real purpose of a college education is this: To find out what makes you happy” (p. 208). As many educators and administrators in higher education can attest, it is often hard to convince new students of this especially today when many students feel pressured to find any job that pays a decent salary and offers health benefits. For new students who realize that college should help them discover what makes them happy, advisors can find it difficult to explain how students can achieve that goal. This reader includes several essays on the reasons for attending college and provides tips for academic success. The authors also address how students can become the kind of person they should be after graduation: a more mature, happy, well-educated citizen ready for work or graduate school, or whatever they may choose.

In this reader Gordon and Minnick have assembled essays covering many topics relevant to new traditional-age college students who leave home to attend school. One such essay entitled “Loneliness” discusses feelings that students can have when they leave their homes and support systems; this essay may not apply to commuter students or adult learners. Student rights and responsibilities, diversity, and emerging technology are also discussed in the book. Each essay is followed by definitions of new vocabulary, discussion questions, and journal suggestions. Additionally, each unit concludes with summary questions and writing assignments. 

For this academic advisor a few essays stand out as being very useful at any institution. Minnick, in his essay "Fourteen Ways of Looking at Electives" (pp. 66-71), defines degree requirements and explains how electives can be used to students' advantage. He notes that electives can be used to learn about different cultures, develop a neglected talent (such as music or drawing), and develop leadership skills. Most advisors would agree that advising students on how to use electives can be one of the most difficult tasks of our jobs. 

"On Academic Freedom" is another excellent essay written by two educational philosophers who tell new students that while at college they can question truths and have the freedom to inquire. "The unique mission of the university is the discovery, preservation, and dissemination of truth... in this community, it is not only those who have already cultivated a high degree of intellectual understanding who have a place. There must also be room for those who are just beginning their intellectual development" (pp. 127-129). The reader ends with commencement speeches by Christopher Reeve and Michelle Obama who challenge students from this generation of “twixters” (betwixt and between adolescence and adulthood) to be tolerant of diversity and to use their learned talents, knowledge, and education to give back to their communities and country to help solve some of the world’s current crises like global warming (p. 232). This book possesses several short essays that would help new students at any college or university. Though aimed toward traditional-age students at four-year schools, there are selections applicable for any first-year seminar or academic advising session.


Foundations: A reader for new college students, 5th edition (Instructor's edition). (2010). Book by Virginia N. Gordon & Thomas L. Minnick. Review by Janice Gunes. Florence, KY: Cengage Learning. 255 pp., $67.95. ISBN # 978-1-4390-8606-3
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