Book By: Sherry Watt, Jodi Linley (Eds.)
Review By: David M. Anderson
Higher Education & Student Affairs Administration
University of Vermont
The task of recognizing, understanding, and creating spaces for diverging backgrounds, experiences, identities, and beliefs is a complex enterprise within higher education (Watt & Linley, 2013, p.1). This journal begins a conversation among educators around “providing students with a skill set necessary for navigating a diverse society” (Watt, 2013, p. 6). This discussion starts with the creation of a “conceptual lens” of diversity as a social good versus as a social value (“…a surface level commitment to systemic change…” versus “…a deeper level…”of dedication “…to disrupt systemic oppression…”) (Watt, 2013, p. 8-9). In turn, contributors, whose positions vary across institutional divisions, offer “guiding principles for designing and implementing successful multicultural initiatives” (Watt & Linley, 2013, p. 2), and a means for measuring goals against outcomes (Watt & Linley, 2013, p. 2-3). This journal builds a framework for preparing those within institutions of higher learning to address oppressive relationships based on difference within campus student populations.
Contributors to this journal propose a framework for establishing multicultural initiatives in higher education. Watt (chapter 1) and Elkins, Morris, Jr., & Schimek (chapter 2) begin by providing a foundation for educators starting multicultural initiatives and applications of assessment, respectively; Dodge & Jarratt (chapter 3) and Pasquesi (chapter 4) are case studies of diversity initiatives; Arbisi-Kelm, Clay, Lin, Horikawa, Clifton, & Kapani (chapter 5) and Watt, Golden, Schumacher, & Moreno (chapter 6) discuss multicultural initiatives in the form of classes; Petryk, Thompson, & Boynton (chapter 7) features training students; and Obear & martinez (chapter 8), Hicks & Tran-Parsons (chapter 9), and Linley & George-Jackson (chapter 10) address issues such as race and religion (Watt & Linley, 2013, p. 2-3). Combined, this journal provides a broad and systematic look at multicultural initiatives in higher education.
The utility for academic advisors stems from the diversity of perspectives of its contributors; its ability to address the components involved in designing, implementing, and assessing programs, classes, and experiences; and its self-reflective nature in which authors provide insights based on their experiences and observations. Pervasive throughout this text is an acknowledgement that diversity work requires sustained effort; success depends upon overcoming individual and institutional barriers.
While contributors do not explicitly focus on the roles of academic advisors within the process of designing and implementing multicultural initiatives, it does reiterate that initiatives centered on diversity as a social value require extensive cooperation from across divisions within institutions of higher learning. Advisors may collaborate across divisions and offices by adopting/incorporating some of the initiatives discussed in the journal. For example, advisors may find it beneficial to help students of color address systems of racial oppression on campus by facilitating race caucuses as discussed by Obear & martinez (chapter 8), and drawing on Elkins, Morris, Jr., & Schimek’s chapter 2 on assessment to measure their effectiveness. Thus, despite the lack of emphasis on advisors per se, the journal’s utility also extends from its flexibility and adoptability across institutional roles.
As educators, advisors play a central part in assessing the needs of diverse campus populations, and in turn, connecting those populations with the tools, resources, and opportunities necessary to address them. Advisors will most benefit from the broad perspectives of contributors as well as the potentiality for transferability of discussions – especially around specific diversity programs and assessment of outcomes. This journal is laudable for its breadth and scope. However, those looking for recommendations addressed more explicitly to advisors, and those seeking a more comprehensive discussion of each of the components presented, may discover this compilation of chapters somewhat limited. Nonetheless, this journal is recommended for those advisors who are seeking an introduction to implementing multicultural initiatives and who seek to create partnerships across institutional divisions.
Watt, S. K. (2013). Designing and implementing multicultural initiatives: guiding principles.
New directions for student services, 2013(144), 5-15.
Watt, S. K., & Linley, J. L. (2013). Editors' notes. New directions for student services, 2013(144), 1-4.
Creating Successful Multicultural Initiatives in Higher Education and Student Affairs. (2013). Book by Sherry Watt, Jodi Linley (Eds.) Review by David M. Anderson. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 107 pp. Price $29.00. ISBN 987-1-118-83483-1.