Book Reviews

Book by Sarah B. Westfall
Review by Jamie Reynolds
First Year Advising Center, Undergraduate Studies
Kent State University


The Small College Dean: New Directions for Student Services provides a basic understanding of the role of a senior student affairs officer (dean of students) at a small college, which is defined in the text as an institution with five thousand or fewer students.  The role of a small college dean is multifaceted and complex.  “Small college deans characteristically have comprehensive portfolios, requiring expertise in multiple areas and a willingness to learn about and stay abreast of others” (p. 12).  The influence of the unique attributes of small colleges, such as historical significance and the varied organizational structures, on the evolution of the role of deans is explored, which provides the reader with a rich framework of the progression of the role of a small college dean.

“A primary goal for many small college deans is to return student life to its historical position as an integral part at the core of the institution” (p. 54).  The small college dean aspires to cultivate an atmosphere in which student life is perceived as a central component of the collegiate experience in the holistic development of a student.  The hope is that student life will be interconnected with the other pivotal student experiences, including classroom learning, academic advising and support, personal and character development, and career exploration during their collegiate endeavors.  

It is evident that this book is written for a specific target audience of student affairs practitioners outside of the scope of academic advising.  Due to the fact that faculty members tend to oversee academic advising in many small colleges, the text encourages the development of partnerships and collaborations between faculty members, student affairs, and support services in an effort to promote the involvement and persistence of students (p. 60).  The insubstantial presence of professional academic advisors within the small college environment led to my inability to relate to the text.  

Westfall acknowledges the significant lack of research and literature focused on student affairs practitioners within the realm of small colleges.  She is optimistic that others will be motivated to further the breadth of research conducted on student affairs practitioners in small colleges after reading this text.  I commend Westfall for her initiative in stimulating conversations and research on student affairs practitioners in the small college environment.  

The Small College Dean: New Directions for Student Services is a quick and easy read.  Readers are introduced to the characteristics that represent a small college environment, which is valuable for any higher education professional.  However, I would recommend this text for those persons with aspirations of assuming a role of a senior student affairs officer (dean of students) at a small college because it provides a framework of the purpose and the responsibilities associated with this position.  I also feel that staff members of academic affairs and student affairs at a small college would find value in exploring methods of partnerships and collaborations between academic affairs and student affairs that can foster a community of learning.  The Small College Dean: New Directions for Student Services would be more worthwhile for faculty advisors within the small college environment.  From the perspective of a professional academic advisor, I do not feel that this text added to my practice within my role of advising.


The Small College Dean: New Directions for Student Services, No. 116. (2007). Book by Sarah B. Westfall (Ed.). Review by Jamie Reynolds. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 86 pp. $28.00, (paperback), ISBN 978-0-7879-9580-5
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