Book by Donald Harward
Review By Danielle Robert-Massey
Harward’s book immediately grabbed my attention from the very first pages. It began to answer questions which I had been mulling over for a period of time. A good number of the students I have worked with often either openly express or imply that their liberal arts requirements are something “to get through”. Harward’s book illustrates similar findings of college students. The students viewed their college experience not as a time for personal growth but rather a means to an end, the high paying job. This expectation from the “consumer”, society, and the government has caused a shift over time in higher education to accommodate their expectations. True to the nature of a liberal arts education, Harward’s book explores the history of Liberal Arts both nationally and internationally, helping the reader to gain a perspective of what led us to present day higher education. Unlike many other investigations, Harward’s book does not leave the reader to puzzle over the questions. Suggestions and guides are outlined to help the reader begin to think how he or she is able to incorporate transformative changes within her college. The case examples at the end of the book are very effective in illustrating how colleges have taken steps to bring higher education to a place where students are challenged and shaped to be the leaders we would hope will guide us into the future.
The old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” comes to mind when I remember first receiving the book. The cover and title do not invite a reader into the important content contained within the pages. Upon reading this book, advisors will begin to see how they are able to make changes at their respective colleges. The suggestions are geared toward all members of the college community, including the president and senior staff as well as individual staff members. The suggestions act as guides rather than a step-by-step format, allowing the reader to imagine how they may work at his or her college. The chapters describing the history of higher education were more difficult to complete, most likely because I found the topic the least applicable to my current position. However, the chapters are important because without understanding the progression of higher education, it would be challenging to not repeat the same mistakes.
Although the length of book is somewhat daunting, most of the chapters were easy to read and very engaging. Harward’s book offers useful tools and ideas for anyone working in higher education. From student organizations to the president of the college, the ideas and themes described offer ways to begin transforming higher education. When thinking of transforming higher education, the concept appears beyond one’s control, that the task is too great for a single person. The suggestions and ideas provided in this book explain how the changes do not need to come top down, but instead how individual members can begin to implement change that could occur in the curriculum, the campus culture, or in an individual advising appointment. I have noticed that my interaction with the students has changed as a result of reading this book. As I begin to work on various projects, I find that I am beginning to integrate the themes into practice. I believe that Harward’s book is an excellent tool to begin the conversation of how to initiate and create transformative change in higher education.
Transforming Undergraduate Education: Theory That Compels and Practices That Succeed (2012). Book by Donald Harward. Review by Danielle Robert-Massey. Lanham, Rowan & Littlefield Publishers. 432PP. $30.00, (hardback) ISBN # 978-1-4422-0674-8.