Book by Kristen A. Renn, and Paul Shang
Review by Elly Brenner
Academic Advisor, First Year of Studies
University of Notre Dame

This collection of articles attempts to provide information to help professionals understand experiences of biracial and multiracial students. Although the answers are not straightforward, Renn and Shang’s compilation helps the reader discover national trends, hear student perspectives, and understand existing research on this topic.  
Over 2.8 million people under the age of 18 indicated more than one racial category in the 2000 U.S. Census (Jones and Smith, 2001).  Renn and Shang argue the need for academic professionals to educate themselves on emerging trends in order to effectively serve this constituency.  However, they also acknowledge that the research is in relatively early stages and emphasize that as the base of information expands and transforms, it is important for academic professionals to stay ahead of the trends and understand the changes in policy that impact students.

Shang’s introductory chapter sets a social and historical context for the topic.  By framing the current social factors affecting biracial and multiracial students against the historic context of the Civil Rights Era, he emphasizes that there has been tremendous progress made in educational policy but there is still a very long way to go.  He concludes with the suggestion that academic professionals should think of race in a more fluid manner.  The second chapter, written by Renn, provides a useful synthesis of existing research.  Next, Talbot presents some preliminary research on a qualitative study she conducted with ten biracial students.  There are some very consistent themes that are useful in the practice of the academic professional.  Similarly, King presents information from the perspective of the student and provides suggestions on how institutions can better support them.  Chapters five and six chronicle existing services in higher education for multiracial and biracial students while suggesting best practices for advisors of groups that specifically work with this population.  Gasser takes the opportunity, in chapter seven, to discuss the impact of social networking sites on students who are multiracial.  She argues that technology provides a different avenue for social development.  Chapter eight discusses the issue of biracial identity as it relates to faculty members in higher education.  Next, the lens is expanded to explore how biracial and multiracial students are served in Canadian culture.  Finally, the last chapter gives a brief and useful synopsis of educational policies in higher education.  For example, it follows the history of self reporting mechanisms, as they relate to race and the implications on institutions of higher education.

The stated goal of this collection is for “student affairs professionals to…understand the experiences and identities of traditional-age multi-racial students.”  By providing a collection of articles that approach this goal from very different directions, the authors clearly give a great deal of information on the subject.  In addition, the academic advisor should find many of the articles useful in helping to grow their knowledge base of policies and practices related to working with individuals of multi-racial backgrounds.  However, much of the book is clearly focused on the student affairs professional, and their programming.  In the strict context of academic advising, I found some of this information less practical.  Nevertheless, Biracial and Multiracial Students is a useful and interesting collection that provides a great deal of information for any academic professional.

Biracial and Multiracial Students (2008) Book by Kristen A. Renn, and Paul Shang. Review by Elly Brenner. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass 88 pp, $29.00, ISBN 978-0-470-42219-9
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