Book by Anna M. Ortiz & Silvia J. Santos
Review by Stephanie Hamington
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Advising
University of Colorado Denver

Reading Ethnicity in College: Advancing Theory and Improving Diversity Practices on Campus is like taking a course in ethnicity and its effects on college students. The authors begin with basic definitions regarding cultural competency that are useful as readers progress through the book. Ethnicity in College provides information on different ethnic groups, their experiences on our campuses, and what measures might be effective in assuring student integration and success. 

The cultural descriptions provided by authors regarding specific groups help avoid generalization and ground the theoretical analysis in student voices. Advisors will find the experiential dimension of Ethnicity in College useful for not just learning about specific groups but also helpful for gaining perspective into student experiences as garnered from their own words. 

As someone from a European American background, I found it useful to read the chapter on white Americans first. This chapter provided a backdrop for comparison of my own experiences to those of current white college students at multiracial institutions. I was then able to compare this information with other ethnic groups and their interactions with one another.

Ethnicity in College is particularly insightful for advisors within predominately white advising offices. Reading this book will help put advisors in the shoes of students from different ethnic backgrounds. Practitioners will find this book useful in learning about the value of establishing a common community for bonding within each ethnic group as well as the importance of interaction between groups.

Ethnicity in College is helpful in learning about different theories and experiences of actual students. It also provide hands-on techniques that can help advisors enhance a student’s experience and development. For example, the authors suggest that early alert programs can help with the academic success and confidence of students. Advisors are encouraged to value Ethnic Studies courses—an intriguing suggestion given the recent controversy regarding the State of Arizona’s attempt to ban them at the K-12 level. The authors note that ethnic courses help with personal growth and a sense of belonging: “We recommend that when encountering students who are struggling academically, university advisors direct them to take ethnic study courses as a medium for retention by sustaining these students’ interest in college and promoting their academic success” (p. 346). These ethnic studies courses can be challenging for white students, so the authors suggest that faculty should help create “nonthreatening opportunities for White students to deal with race-related information and issues of White privilege and racism” (p. 347).

One of the key points the authors make is that students value learning about and being with those from their own cultures; they also value getting to know other cultures. The third CD in the NACADA (2007) series, Foundations of Academic Advising series is Understanding Cultural Identity and Worldview Development. This CD and its accompanying Pocket Guide provide a good overview on diversity issues in higher education and generates some useful talking points to start discussion. Ethnicity in College is a useful companion to the NACADA CD especially for advisors interested in a more detailed analysis of the issues or for learning more about how to make a positive different in the success of diverse student populations. 


NACADA. (2007). Foundations of Academic Advising CD 3: Understanding Cultural Identity and Worldview Development. Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association. 

Ethnicity in College: Advancing Theory and Improving Diversity Practices on Campus (2009) Book by Anna M. Ortiz & Silvia J. Santos. Review by Stephanie Hamington. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC. 401 pp., $35.00. ISBN # 978-1-57922-332-8

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