Book by Jeanine Ward-Roof
Review by Jacqueline M. Slaughter
Graduate Student
Leadership Coaching/Higher Education Administration

Higher education institutions face many challenges in today’s consumer-based society including pressures for increased accountability, demands upon time and technology, and the ever expanding involvement of parents. These new realities affect how we work with new and transfer students during the college orientation process.

This primer, an excellent guide for professionals responsible for college orientation, helps readers gain an understanding of the history, the process, and the critical issues surrounding college orientation. Chapter authors, orientation practitioners, first year experience, and other student programs, provide valuable information on what makes the orientation process successful. They discuss the roles campuses must undertake to ensure that the process is seamless.

Through 16 chapters and a four part series, this guide explains the foundation, organization, practice, and sustenance of an orientation program and the importance that professionals must fully appreciate if we are to make certain our programs are strong and meaningful.

What makes this primer exceptional is its comprehensiveness; chapter authors understand what student affairs, academic affairs, and the entire academic community must know if we are to meet the needs of todays’ students. Issues addressed include how to effectively work with hovering or “helicopter” parents and how to relate to diverse student populations (e.g., LGBT students). Another important feature of the text is the discussion of employed students and residential students; per recent times, the section regarding employed students is much lengthier than the one for residential students since working is a reality for many students today. Not surprisingly, authors note that one negative effect of working is that these students often do not have an opportunity to participate in campus activities and often have lower grades. The chapter on technology and how it can be used to better integrate new students is a welcome addition to this primer. Also timely is a well positioned chapter on crisis planning and how it can be integrated into orientation programs. 

In an important chapter entitled “Nontraditional is the New Traditional: Understanding Today’s College Student” readers learn that for the first time, “adults actually outnumber youth.” (p. 193).  Given this reality, practitioners must design appropriate programs that appeal to this burgeoning student group. More convenient orientation times with online orientation offerings are programmatic considerations critical for these students. 

Lastly, an added feature is an entire chapter devoted to assessing and evaluating orientation programs. With increased scrutiny at the local, state, and federal levels, the editor notes the importance of assessing and evaluating orientation programs. Even the importance of using mixed quantitative and qualitative measures is discussed including the use of focus groups to help gain valuable information about students’ experiences.  What a phenomenal idea!

I heartily recommend this primer to both new and seasoned orientation practitioners. It is an excellent manual to inform, guide, and position a campus toward better preparing today’s students for the realities they will face.

Designing Successful Transitions: A Guide for Orienting Students to College. (2010). Book by Jeanine A. Ward-Roof (Ed.). Review by  Jacqueline M. Slaughter. Columbia, S.C:National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition. 250 pp. $40. ISBN: 978-1-889-271169-9

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