Book by Daryl G. Smith
Review by Adrian H. Huerta
Office of the Provost, McNair Scholars Program
University of Southern California
Daryl Smith’s Diversity’s Promise for Higher Education provides an overview of the last four decades of the benefits, struggles, and research focused on diversity in postsecondary education. Smith explains the evolution of institutional diversity and the multiple dimensions related to the topic including racial and ethnic identity development, a social and political rationale, and external oppositions to diversity agendas. Smith divides the book into four parts that will help readers build individual and institutional support for enhancing campus diversity. The segments include The Diversity Imperative, Reframing Diversity, Building Capacity by Interrupting the Usual, and What Will it Take?. These sections provide a wide perspective that includes conversations on Latino, Black, and Native Americans, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender, ability, socioeconomic status, religion, and first-generation college students.
The benefits academic advisors can obtain from this book are woven throughout the text. For example, an advisor can extract tangible elements from Chapter 7, Student Learning and Success, that impact traditionally underrepresented students. Smith provokes readers to critically examine their positions and responsibilities regarding marginalized student populations. A guiding question she poses is “Are special-purpose groups and locations perceived as ‘problems’ or are they valued as contributing to the diversity of the institution and its educational missions?” (p. 225). The question serves as a rubric academic advisors can use to explore the values and benefits of ethnic, racial, or special purpose student organizations.
In addition, advisors can benefit from the extensive explanation of the interconnectedness of institutional agents, students, and faculty relationships that support diversity. Smith emphasizes factors that have impeded and promoted diversity programs regionally and nationally, and includes a discussion of the recent challenges to affirmative action initiatives. This dialogue will enhance advisors’ understanding of the sociopolitical advantages and challenges to diversity programs within postsecondary institutions.
Smith’s charge to all advisors is to determine which methods and techniques support marginalized students as we move toward increased campus diversity. The most successful procedures will vary by institution and are contingent upon the amount of support available from peers and administrators. This book provides guidance for advisors interested in developing a stronger understanding of diversity related topics and provides the stimulus for meaningful discussions about methods that enhance the institutional climate for multiple student groups.
Diversity’s Promise for Higher Education. (2009). Book by Daryl G. Smith. Review by Adrian H. Huerta. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press. 352 pp., $50.00, ISBN # 978-0-801-89316-2