Book by: Georgianna L. Martin and Michael S. Hevel (Eds.)
Review by: Marianne Joyce
University of Massachusetts Amherst
As the roles of student affairs professionals grow and change within universities, advisors may be called on to provide direct services, teach, keep current on research and, at some institutions, publish. Martin and Hevel, in this edited volume, argue that there is now a large divide between ‘researchers’ and ‘practitioners’ that has made research on student populations more complex, but often less connected to on-the-ground advising experiences (p.1, 3-5). To bring this complex research to a wide variety of student personnel in an accessible format, the editors present this book that draws on data from the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education. Each chapter serves as a literature review of published work on a particular topic using the data from Wabash.
Chapters are written in a clear and concise style and the book does not require an in-depth knowledge of statistics or methods to understand. The authors successfully present an overview of their topics, give the reader a good summary of work to date, and because of the literature review styling of the articles, provide an extensive list of references that those who want to dive deeper into the content can explore. Wabash has also posted most of their research instruments as well as topical bibliographies on their website (Wabash National Study n.d.), which can serve as an unofficial companion to this volume for those who want to gain a deeper understanding of the data. Though all of the chapters delve into issues that are useful for an advising professional to know more about, chapter five, “The Effects of Student Interactions with Student Affairs Professionals on College Outcomes,” by Georgianna L. Martin and Melanie McGee, is of particular interest. While the data unfortunately does not allow for a consideration of advising specifically, Martin and McGee do review how student affairs work can have a positive effect on student outcomes and provide potential avenues for future research in this area.
The book as a whole does suffer a bit from scattered focus, because the opening and closing both address and develop the idea of the “scholar-practitioner,” (pp. 1-2, 89-98) which may have been better left for a separate journal article. The presentation of the dilemma of research complexity outpacing the skills and needs of student personnel is sufficient to frame the book. Finally, the authors do make a convincing argument about why to focus on Wabash, but they do not address why they chose the particular topics included. The Wabash study identified seven main outcomes as its focus (Wabash National Study n.d.), but the six thematic chapters in this book do not parallel them. A stronger argument about why the six topics are important may encourage readers to explore more of the volume.
Overall, Research-Driven Practice in Student Affairs fills an often-neglected niche—the presentation of complex data in a format that most professionals can understand and review in their limited time. Chapters focus on important points so that a busy advisor can get an overview of a topic, but also return to the bibliography for more in-depth resources when needed.
Wabash National Study 2006–2012. (n.d.). Retrieved September 12, 2015, from http://www.liberalarts.wabash.edu/study-overview/
Research-Driven Practice in Student Affairs: Implications from the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education. (2014). Book by Georgianna L. Martin and Michael S. Hevel (Eds.). Review by Marianne Joyce. Merced, CA: Jossey Bass. 112 pp. Price $29.00 (Paperback). ISBN 978-1-118-97955-6.