Book Reviews

Book by Kezar, Adrianna J. Kezar, C. Anthony Chambers, John C. Burkhardt
Review by Kristi Meyer
Colleges’ Freshman Advising Center
University of Texas at San Antonio


Most educators, including academic advisors, enter careers in higher education for the purpose of helping advance the public good.  The question to consider is whether or not the public good is really being served by institutions of higher education?

Kezar, Chambers, Burkhardt and Associates demonstrate that advancing the public good is critical to society while they maintain that institutions of higher education are neglecting their duty to keep the focus on this goal. They suggest that the social charter between higher education and society is changing; higher education is quickly becoming an industry where students are consumers who purchase goods in exchange for their personal benefits.  

The authors provide a strong argument that higher education has lost its focus on the public good as they:  (1) break down what we understand the public good to be; (2) focus on the current state of the social charter between institutions of higher education and society; (3) delineate how policies need to change to further the public good; (4) and define the responsibility each student, staff member, and faculty member holds to further the cause of the public good.  In particular, part two of the book makes a strong case that this loss of focus can be attributed to higher education’s increased emphasis on revenue generation and the promotion of individualism on campus.  While higher education is but one variable in a multivariate equation whose sum is the public good (p. 10-11), this is the variable we as educators can most influence.  

While great efforts are being made on many campuses to address the issue of the public good, these efforts are fragmented and tend to be independent movements often taking place in isolation. The authors suggest that the solution to this epidemic is better dialogue among university personnel at all levels, but especially at the higher echelons.  Additionally, there is a need for integration of the public good into the mission statements and the core values – in theory and in reality – at all levels of higher education.  This book calls on everyone within higher education to be part of a national movement, a meta-movement, to draw attention to the cause of the public good in higher education.

The authors outline how faculty, staff, and administrators can play a part in “transactional” and “transformational” change.  They “lay out a case for a movement that advances the notion of higher education as a public good” (p. 4), and contend that a social movement is in order.  

The authors of this book have extensive backgrounds in advising and the advising role in education, college student development, service learning, and the first year experience.  They provide a stimulating and motivating call to service for advisors, faculty members, and higher education administrators especially anyone in the position to make policy.


Higher Education for the Public Good: Emerging Voices from a National Movement. (2005).  Book by Kezar, Adrianna J. Kezar, C. Anthony Chambers, John C. Burkhardt (Eds.). Review by Kristi Meyer. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 384 pp. Price $ $40.00  ISBN # 0-7879-7382-3
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