Book by Shaun R. Harper
Review by Christina Ring-Hillard
Office of Student Programs
University of South Florida
Harper has created a wonderful resource by compiling the ideas and facts of different authors and researchers into an informative volume. As each chapter unfolds, the reader learns about the difficult task student affairs professionals face every day as they attempt to create a campus environment that is inclusive and promotes opportunities for diverse students to engage in meaningful interactions. The beauty of this book is two-fold; it speaks to student affairs professionals by providing research outcomes and specific methods for program implementation and it highlights the importance of input from undergraduate students. Harper gives the students a voice and allows the reader to step into the shoes of a student affairs practitioner from a new perspective.
This book is very refreshing in the way it illuminates the issues of multiculturalism, involvement of student affairs professionals, campus environments, and the assessment of facilities and programs. A powerful message is delivered in Harper’s book: “Educators, including those in student affairs, must be held more accountable for ensuring students are afforded deep, rich, and challenging learning experiences related to diversity” (p. 2). Often, as educators we loose sight of the fact that we need to help students develop holistically. For example, enrolling a diverse student body is no guarantee that positive student interaction, diversity education, or inclusiveness are automatically learned and practiced. “Allport’s contact theory proposes that intergroup interaction can reduce prejudice among college students, given four conditions: (a) equal status of the groups in the college setting, (b) common goals, (c) inter-group cooperation, (d) support of authorities, law or custom” (p.47). Some books are full of fluff but in this book the author offers suggestions to assist academic advisors in connecting with students to offer effective and efficient services, and provide environments that will lead to a greater sense of inclusiveness.
Harper purports that higher education practitioners must listen to students and understand their message in order to learn how a supportive environment can be fostered. The book eloquently states, “The administration and the student body must work together, for students have the passion and the will, and the administration holds the keys to the way” (p.40). As the demographics of our student populations change, student affairs professionals must assess and reassess programs and services that foster innovation to ensure the needs of diverse students are met.
Overall, this book is ideal for student affairs professionals—new as well as seasoned practitioners. Furthermore, I would encourage student affairs faculty to consider this volume for use in graduate courses. It makes many interesting observations, gives detailed standards and recommendations to create an inclusive campus environment and provides numerous references for further reading. My only criticism is that the book tends to be slightly repetitive in some chapters. Nevertheless, it is definitely worth the read.
Creating Inclusive Campus Environments: For Cross-Cultural Learning and Student Engagement. (2008) Book by Shaun R. Harper. Review by Christina Ring-Hillard. Washington, DC: (NASPA), 276 pp., Price $ 35.96, ISBN 978-0-931654-53-4