Book by Amy Reynolds
Review by Hailey King
Graduate Advisor, School of Nursing
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Reynolds’ Helping college students: Developing essential support skills for student affairs practice contains a wealth of information about the ways that student affairs practitioners interact with students and about the types of skills that are necessary to make these interactions effective.  The author discusses several challenges to learning the appropriate helping skills and recommends overarching changes in student affairs training programs and professional development opportunities.

The book divides student affairs into four functional areas: counseling-oriented positions, leadership development and educational positions, administrative positions, and academic affairs positions.  The author places academic advisors in the academic affairs functional area (p. 16).  Part one of the book describes the helping roles that student affairs practitioners fulfill in higher education, and part two lists specific helping skills that the author thinks are necessary for all student affairs professionals to develop.  Although Reynolds attempted to provide specific examples of how each functional area within student affairs would use specific helping skills, I felt that the academic affairs positions seemed to be more of an afterthought than the other areas.  

One strength of this book is that it stresses that multicultural competence is a skill that is necessary to be effective in student affairs practice.  It also points out that mental health issues are becoming increasingly common on college campuses and emphasizes the need for student affairs practitioners to become familiar with the signs of mental illness.  A third item that I thought was helpful in the book is the idea that student affairs professionals should become aware of their own strengths and weaknesses in regards to helping students. Academic advisors can definitely benefit from the recommendations to strengthen their multicultural awareness, to learn more about mental health issues, and to understand their own strengths and weaknesses.

However, I do not believe that this book is a must-read for the typical academic advisor.  The book seems to be more geared toward an administrator who is in a position to effect change in student affairs preparation programs and professional development opportunities.  The author does a great job of pointing out how, as a whole, new student affairs professionals are not adequately prepared to help students in the most effective way possible.  However, academic advisors are not generally in a position to address this concern.  In fact, I think that a new academic advisor who reads this book would feel very overwhelmed by all the things that the book suggests that he/she should be doing to help students.  Typical academic advisors may benefit from reading this book by picking a couple of skills that they would like to improve in themselves and then researching those areas further.  I do not feel that the book itself provides enough detailed information or examples about how to improve one’s skills so the advisors would have to seek other resources. 

Overall, Reynolds does a good job of summarizing the roles that student affairs professionals play in higher education and the various helping skills that would be beneficial for these professionals.  She lists the weaknesses in our current system of training new professionals and suggests changes that could be made on an institutional and industry-wide level.  Upper-level administrators who are looking to improve the effectiveness of their student affairs staff may find this book to be a beneficial starting point for change.  Academic advisors, on the other hand, may simply find it overwhelming. 

Helping college students: Developing essential support skills for student affairs practice. (2008). Book by Amy Reynolds. Review by Hailey King. San Francisco,CA: Jossey-Bass, 336 pp.  $40.00.  ISBN # 978-0-7879-8645-2
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