Academic and Student Affairs in Collaboration: Creating a Culture of Student Success by Mitchell Levy and Bernard Polnariev

Review by Jana Clinton, The Pennsylvania State University

As advocates of student development and success, academic advisers in higher education collaborate with a variety of campus stakeholders, but there are many benefits to partnering with student affairs units by merging the academic and co-curricular visions at postsecondary institutions. Academic and Student Affairs in Collaboration: Creating a Culture of Student Success describes student success as academic achievement, competency development, and attainment of educational goals, which can be achieved through partnership between academic affairs and student affairs. For example, collaborative programming and assessment allow both units to share best practices while tapping into the holistic development of the student. Additionally, sharing resources between units may provide opportunities to achieve student learning outcomes and impact the overall student experience, particularly when staffing, time, and budgets are stretched thin. While these ideas are not new, the authors describe the ineffectiveness of general and diffuse goals that occur in higher education (Cohen, March & Olsen, 1972) which weigh heavily on the ability for the university to cohesively make decisions regarding student learning. Academic advisers are crucial in this aspect by facilitating conversations between students and campus resources, interpreting university policies, and providing students with the opportunity to be engaged in both academic and co-curricular activities (NACADA Core Competencies, 2017).

In determining the environment needed to achieve such outcomes, Levy and Polnariev build upon the literature of Astin’s I=Inputs, E=Environments, and O=Outcomes model (1991). As an educator, it is important to understand that students enter college at different levels and come from a variety of backgrounds with different expectations, goals, and expectations. With this in mind, academic units and student affairs units have historically operated as loosely coupled systems, where each unit preserves its own identity and functions independently in the larger university system, although they are at times responsive to each other (Weick, 1976, p.3). If one applies Weick’s concept of loosely coupled systems to the relationship between academic affairs and student affairs, one would observe that each unit is separate in the fact that they have their own organizational structure, missions, staff, and resources, but they both provide programming to the same student populations on campus. Thus, the degree of coupling between two systems is based on the activity of the variables which the two systems share (p.3). The authors argue that both units should be engaged in more frequent and genuine strategic initiatives with one another to create a conducive environment for student learning.

According to the NACADA core values, academic advisers empower their advisees by motivating, encouraging, and supporting students to recognize their fullest potential (NACADA Core Values, 2017). In practice, the Levy and Polnariev suggest collaboration in developing first year seminar courses, career development activities, and service-learning experiences in order to encourage students to take ownership over their educational journey (2016). Since these activities are measured through the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) as high impact practices, academic advisers already have an important contribution towards student success by engaging students on a deeper level through frequent interactions, establishing rapport, and creating a welcoming environment for their advisees. By involving additional stakeholders, it is possible to expand services and programming to achieve student outcomes. In addition to maintaining strong full-time advising units, Levy and Polnariev suggest developing relationships with faculty advisers to build supportive networks and enhance current advising efforts (2016). Since faculty are key players in student success, finding ways to engage faculty provides students with more options for utilizing cohesive academic and support services. In summary, this book provides both academic affairs and student affairs professionals with practical recommendations for next steps, overcoming challenges and barriers, finding support, and identifying strategies for collaboration.


Academic and Student Affairs in Collaboration: Creating a culture of student success, Routledge. 186 pp. Price $39.62. Mitchell Levy, Bernard Polnariev. ISBN: 9781138913301

Astin, A.W. (1991). Assessment for Excellence: The Philosophy and Practice of Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education. Washington, D.C: American Council on Education/Oryx Press Series on Higher Education.

Cohen, M., March, J., Olsen, J. (1972). A Garbage Can Model of Organizational Choice. Administrative Science Quarterly. 17(1), 1-25

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA academic advising core competencies model. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCompetencies.aspx

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA core values of academic advising. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx

Weick, K.E. (1976). Educational organizations as loosely coupled systems. Administrative Science Quarterly, 21(1), 1-19.

Posted in: Book Review
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |