posted on November 20, 2012 15:55
Book By: Patrick G. Love and Sandra M. Estanke
Review By: Ruby A. Hayden
Coordinator: Advising & Retention
Lake Washington Technical College, WA
“We influence what we see”(p. viii), is the overarching theme and call to arms of Rethinking Student Affairs Practice where the authors ask the reader to imagine a new path for leadership, assessment, resource identification, and forward thinking in Student Affairs. This change in perception derives from an understanding of the new science, (e.g. chaos theory) without forgetting old science (e.g. linear Newtonian theory). That is, professionals must realize that the top down linear management and decision making of the past is still valuable in some situations, but newer ideas of relationships and leadership on all levels must also take place. The most common metaphor used in the book is a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the globe that may cause hurricanes on the other side; just as the small efforts of one advisor “can lead to radical change or transformation” (p. 45). The trick is to visualize a desired effect of the butterfly’s flap and purposefully move in that direction.
Although obviously written to an audience of administrators at a four year college— in terms of language, examples, and structure— this book offers insights and practical suggestions for leadership, assessment, and resource identification that are directly applicable to the advising experience. Love and Estanke note that “[p]ervasive leadership is individually generated relationships and actions among members throughout an organization focused on struggling together to influence and promote organizational learning and accomplish positive changes to benefit the common good” (p. 38). This definition allows an individual advisor to believe that he or she has the ability to initiate and follow through with ideas/programs/opportunities that will effect the entire institution.
Additionally the authors encourage the adoption of an assessment mindset that is “creating the future, assessing the present, [and] defusing the past” (p. 93). Advisors have the ability to create the future of their work by assessing all aspects of programs, not just in terms of value, but also in terms of how to make the program (broken or not) better. To do this an advisor must be willing to assess with the future in mind.
“Resource awareness” (p.125) encourages others to break away from the mindset that money and staff are the only way to accomplish a new initiative. Rather, student affairs professionals should focus on what is available: people, time, space and information, both within student affairs and other departments. In conjunction with the ideas of pervasive leadership (taking initiative, forging relationships) and assessment (consistently moving to understand and improve) an advisor is armed with the connections needed to develop new ideas and with the information necessary to effectively argue for these ideas.
Roughly the first half of the book clearly presents how to shift one’s perspective. However, later sections regarding technology, globalization, and futures forecasting are more nebulous and do not offer the same concrete descriptions for practical use. These sections seem better suited to inclusion within earlier chapters rather than separate entities. However, I anticipate referring to the first part of this text consistently in my current work as an advisor and as my career progresses.
Rethinking Student Affairs Practice.
(2004). Book by Love, Patrick G. and Estanke, Sandra M. Reivew by Ruby A. Hayden. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 256 pp. Price $36. ISBN #0-7879-6214-7