Book by Torres, Vasti, Mary Howard-Hamilton, Daniel Cooper
Review by Barbara Miller
Academic Advisor
Kent State University

Higher education has typically engaged in diversity by developing various cultural studies curricula. Although development of these areas of study is important, this is but one way to address an issue that is multifaceted. Torres et.al, challenge faculty and administrators to become more purposeful in their approach. A deliberate plan to implement meaningful diversity goals should be an integral part of the institutional strategic plan and be reflected in the mission, policies, learning outcomes as well as the campus’ physical environment.

In the first chapter the authors ask, “Why Should Higher Education Be Concerned with the Identity Development of Diverse Students?” The reader is lead to the conclusion that if higher education is to continue to be the center for innovative thinking, a diversity of thought and open cross cultural communication must be promoted and embraced. This chapter introduces the idea of stereotype threat and alludes to the concept of stereotype lift.

The book offers overviews of foundational identity development theories that allow for a working knowledge of Erikson, Chickering and Joleson. Because these frameworks do not address racial identity development, the authors begin to discuss theories centered around oppression and social identity theory. The authors eloquently discuss how such phenomena affect people of color as well as white identity development. The chapter also provides a prod for higher education professionals to examine their experiences and their own cultural lenses, which can be considered the first step in becoming more multiculturally competent.  

One will appreciate the distinction outlined in the monograph between theories focusing on broad concepts of racial identity development and those focusing on specific groups. Among the specific groups included are African American, Native American, Latino, Asian American and Multiracial students. Although the authors relay the theories around these groups, they do not insult the reader’s intelligence by suggesting they hold true for all members of the group. The monograph also incorporates a chapter addressing the interrelationship between students’ multiple roles and identities. This is important because students not only develop a sense of who they are racially, but they develop a sense of who they are sexually, educationally and in other roles. It is important that we have a foundation for the interplay of these multiple roles if we are to grasp how members of different groups may deal with each of these issues and how the campus environment may impact students from various backgrounds.  

Finally, the monograph provides a case study and a number of points that could be discussed. It does not, however, provide guidance on the solutions that should be considered. The monograph is well organized and provides both theoretical and practical information in a short and easy to read manner. Those new to the concept of multicultural competency will not be overwhelmed with jargon. The monograph is a valuable tool for training in multicultural competence or as a text for those teaching a course on diversity at the graduate level. I highly recommend this monograph for higher education faculty, staff and administrators. Development of multicultural competency helps create able students and thus has implications for retention.

Identity Development of Diverse Populations:  Implications for Teaching and Administration in Higher Education. (2003). Book by Torres, Vasti, Mary Howard-Hamilton, Daniel Cooper
Review by Barbara Miller. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass ISBN # 978-0-7879-6351-4
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