Scott E Evenbeck, Barbara Jackson, Maggy Smith, Dorothy Ward, & Associates
Review by Kristin Bidoshi
Dean of Studies and Associate Professor of Russian
This monograph describes the structure and work of the university college. Also known as the first year college, general college or division of undergraduate studies, the university college (in all of its various administrative forms) seeks to serve incoming students. More than providing an administrative home for innovative programs that support incoming students, the authors of the articles demonstrate how the effective university college also supports holistic learning by addressing the academic and personal development of the student, and collaborations for entering student success including skill building in the form of peer mentoring programs and supplemental instruction. In addition, they outline the methods by which the university college seeks to efficiently engage with the undergraduate curriculum, and assess its programs and students’ needs. The primary mission of the university college is providing a structured and coherent experience for new students (5).
The structure of the monograph, which is based on foundational chapters focusing on the essential elements of the university college model with corresponding case studies, offers the reader interested in understanding the context for holistic support for learning, for example, detailed information on what that may look like in practice. While the ideas and strategies discussed in this monograph may at first seem more relevant to the university setting, specific examples serve as lessons and provide warnings for pitfalls and are easily transferable to the small college setting. The case study which highlights Montana State University’s students-in-transition advisor program, for example, is one of many examples of the wealth of practical ideas offered in this collection. Additionally, the administrator who is looking for low-budget ideas for bringing faculty and the resources they need together, will benefit from the case study on Kennesaw State University’s learning communities which illustrates the need for resources for faculty development as it offers low-budget ideas for achieving that need.
It is not surprising that the monograph covers in great detail the areas of academic advising, first year seminars, learning communities, and new student orientation as these are frequently cited as the main services provided by the university college. What is surprising are the somewhat simplistic conclusions in the chapter on the importance of assessment to the university college. It is difficult to argue with the conclusion that universities must gather accurate data and select the “right people…to propose significant solutions to the highest administrative levels to improve student success” (137). As the authors acknowledge, assessment, when done correctly can be a very useful tool to help improve and refine programs, and also to help determine the funding priorities of the institution. The specific case studies related to assessment underscore some of the fundamental problems plaguing the university college such as the need to evaluate a number of programs on a regular basis for effectiveness and to cut programs that are no longer viable, the problems of ineffective marketing of services, poor interdepartmental and intercollege communication and even the simple issue of administrating programs with obscure or nonsensical acronyms (139).
The volume will be of interest to a wide audience including professionals in academic affairs and student affairs who work with incoming students. The monograph is an important contribution to the literature on the university college. As academic advisors are generally among the first people with whom incoming students have important conversations, advisors working with first year students, the general education program, the first year seminar or learning communities will appreciate the information on these and other programs offered in the twenty different case studies from fifteen campuses included in this monograph.
Organizing for Student Success: The University College Model (Monograph No. 53). (2010). Book by Scott E Evenbeck, Barbara Jackson, Maggy Smith, Dorothy Ward, & Associates, (Eds). Review by Kristin Bidoshi. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition. 180 pp. $40.00 ISBN 978-1-889-27170-5