Book by Joe Cuseo, Viki Fecas & Aaron Thompson
Review by Karen L. Archambault
Director of Student Services, Branch Campus and Higher Education Centers
Enrollment Development and Student Affairs
Brookdale Community College
In Thriving in College and Beyond, the authors take what has become a common topic – student success in the first year -- and present it with a new approach. In a variety of forms, the first year experience has become a common topic on college campuses and the textbooks and resources for such a course abound. Like those other texts, Cuseo, Fecas and Thompson cover standard topics for the student success including educational planning, learning and study skills, life skills and diversity. Unlike its competitors, however, Thriving puts these topics in a framework that emphasizes research as both a necessary skill and as a method for college success.
Throughout the text, the authors maintain a standardized format that provides discussion of each subject in a textbook format, followed by steps for students to take to advance their skills in each subject area. Each chapter then ends with a summary, an independent research exercise, and a case study. Though the first section of each chapter can be lengthy and perhaps overwhelming for some students, this combination of content and interactive material allows the student to both gain information and apply it to his or her own experience. In addition, the student can connect to the material through quotes, first hand student perspectives and cartoons that can “lighten up” the otherwise dense material. The memory cues sprinkled throughout further allow students to translate research material into usable action steps.
Particularly strong in the text is the preface. The authors recognize that the first year seminar is often misunderstood by students and use the preface to explain why the information gained through the course and text is valuable. This is particularly valuable for instructors at institutions where these courses are optional. While this section is somewhat lengthy, a skilled instructor can utilize this information to encourage a conversation among students about the importance of starting the first year on the “right foot.” In addition, Thriving provides an excellent explanation of the value and purpose of the Liberal Arts curriculum, one with which students of any major can connect and that allows students to be comfortable being undecided.
Unfortunately, the text does have limitations in its use. Though Thriving mentions the variety of students one might find during the first year, its emphasis is quite clearly on a “traditional” student. Sections on work emphasize the need to limit time on the job to 15 hours per week or less; much of the discussion of the college transition focuses on the differences between high school and college. While some institutions may find this to be appropriate for their student body, many students work out of necessity, not choice, and many who enter college do so via transfer or after extended breaks from college. These limitations require that an instructor hoping to adopt the text do so only when appropriate for the audience at hand.
Despite these limitations, Thriving allows for a new approach to a continually growing topic. Advisors who teach first year seminar courses to any audience will find the text to be a valuable resource as well as a source for lecture material. For the right audience, the text will also provide students with a strong skill set on which to build a foundation for college success.
Thriving in College and Beyond (2007) Book by Joe Cuseo, Viki S. Fecas, & Aaron Thompson. Review by Karen L. Archambault. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing, 512 pp., $49.95, (paperback), ISBN # 978-0-7575-3998-5