Journal Articles

The Senior Year: Culminating Experiences and Transitions

Categories: Book Review, Issue 33(2)

Book by Mary Stuart Hunter, Jennifer Keup, Jullian Kinzie and Heather Maietta (Eds.)
Review by Melissa Vosen Callens
College of University Studies
North Dakota State University.

The Senior Year: Culminating Experiences and Transitions is a collection that describes today’s college seniors using 2011 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSEE) and 2009 CIRP College Student Survey (CSS) data as well as provides some strategies for implementing initiatives to help seniors transition from school to work. This collection has three sections: Understanding College Seniors, Addressing the Needs of College Seniors, and Facilitating the Transition Out of College.

Tracy Skipper begins by describing how student development theory, including Arnett’s theory of emerging adulthood, Perry’s scheme of ethical and intellectual development, and Chickering and Reisser’s seven vectors of psychosocial development, informs their understanding of today’s seniors. For advisors, this section provides a great literature review on the subject.

Kinzie contends that students should be participating in high impact practices (HIPs) throughout their college career, in which learning is transformational rather than informational (p. 72-77). Kinzie argues that in order for students to gain the greatest educational effect of HIP senior seminars and capstone courses, students need to participate in other HIPs. Advisors should ensure exposure to HIPs by encouraging participation in internships, study abroad and service learning opportunities, research with faculty, etc.

In addition to Kinzie’s chapter, the chapter “Career Development in the Senior Year” could be useful to advisors. In this chapter, Maietta suggests that while career development and academic advising have historically been separate entities, moving toward a more collaborative and integrated approach of these services would benefit seniors transitioning into the 21st century workplace. Maietta also believes it is important for “career advising and world of world-of-work exploration” to be peppered “throughout their growth process as emerging adults” (p. 129).

For advisors who are also capstone instructors, the chapter on capstone courses might be beneficial. Jean M. Hensheid argues that an outcomes-first approach to capstone course design is problematic. Because of the complex learning involved in these classes, a method of learning that is “distinguished by the level of autonomy expected of the learner,” Hensheid suggests instructors start with the description of the learning, the activities—not objectives (p. 97).

Hensheid also believes the most effective capstone courses are those that rely on methods and expectations that have been introduced prior to the senior year. This is a definite theme of The Senior Year; the opportunities for senior success are greatest when programming and courses reflect expectations and mirror programming outlined throughout the entire undergraduate experience.

In my opinion, the only thing missing from this book is more concrete examples. It would be nice to see, for example, additional examples of how advisors can collaborate with career specialists. As an advisor, the one example I found helpful was the career passport. The career passport requires students to complete and document approximately 5 of 10 career-related activities (interviewing, drafting a resume, updating online profiles, attend local career fairs, etc.).

It is important to reiterate that this book is a great start if the reader is looking for a summary of student development theory and how theory relates to today’s senior students. This text would be useful for advisors, capstone instructors, and certain student affairs officials. The book does not, however, provide many concrete suggestions for programming and classroom activities. If readers are looking for tangible strategies to use in their classrooms and / or advising sessions, I would suggest looking for supplemental material.


The Senior Year: Culminating Experiences and Transitions. (2012). Book by Mary Stuart Hunter, Jennifer Keup, Jullian Kinzie and Heather Maietta (Eds.). Review by Melissa Vosen Callens Columbia, SC: National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience. 230 pp., $35.00, (paperback), ISBN # 978-1-889-271-85-9