Book by Melanie J. Guentzel and Becki Elkins Nesheim
Review by Stephanie Ritrievi, M.Ed
David Eccles School of Business
University of Utah

Describe your graduate school experience.  What phrases come to mind?  Engagement with the institution? Opportunities to network and socialize with peers in other disciplines?  High quality career and academic advising services?  Conversely, some may remember feelings of social isolation or frustration with student services designed primarily to serve undergraduates, thus feeling that the campus belonged to the undergraduates.

Editors Guentzel and Nesheim, in Supporting Graduate and Professional Students: The Role of Student Affairs synthesize a large body of research and reflections of student affairs professionals into a call for an examination of student services for graduate students offered at our institutions. Chapter authors Jason L. Pontius and Shaun R. Harper, begin their description of services provided by academic departments in the following manner:
“While many academic departments provide some support for graduate students, they often suffer from a building-bound silo effect that isolates them from the larger university.  Academic units usually lack the human resources to adequately address many basic issues…...”

Opening chapters address the current landscape of the graduate school experience, the changing graduate school population, and issues leading to dissatisfaction with graduate education.  Chris Peterson Brus, director of Women in Science and Engineering at the University of Iowa, provides a cycle of negative stereotypes of nontraditional graduate students and an intervention program.  With retention as the goal, the program aims to help students find work-life balance, increase faculty investment in success of non-traditional students, and decrease isolation and marginalization of students.

Authors argue that student affairs professionals, educated in adult development and student development theories, are in optimal positions to collaborate with colleagues to provide experiences and programs that cross academic boundaries.  Assessment, coupled with a lens through which to understand graduate student experiences, prepares advisors and administrators to design and implement programs and services to meet identified needs.  Subsequent chapters focus on specific populations of graduate students, such as medical and law school students, and traditional student services.  These chapters provide a comparative perspective of administrative structures and reporting lines for student services delivery on a number of campuses.

The primus of the text is the Principles for Good Practice in Graduate and Professional Student Engagement. Based upon the writings of Chickering and Gamson, the ACPA/NASPA study group, and other studies on the value of student engagement with the university campus, these principles provide a sound philosophical foundation from which to assess current daily procedures and guide systematic change. The editors present straightforward steps leading to change beginning with assessment, drawing together the network of invested parties, development, implementation, and then returning to assessment.  These principles are broadly applicable for multiple student services on, arguably, any campus.

Editors Guentzel and Nesheim have blended the work of those researching graduate education with directors and coordinators of graduate student services.  Building upon assessment, the chapters provide responses leading to quality services. The organization of the text leads the reader from an understanding of challenges facing graduate education to programs and services, such as the McDougal Graduate Student Center at Yale University, that provide an umbrella of student services.

Extensive references listings at the end of each chapter, some of which will be familiar to advisors who work with undergraduate students, provide the reader with ample additional readings.  Any reader would gain a new perspective exploring these processes on other campuses.

Supporting Graduate and Professional Students:  The Role of Student Affairs (New Directions for Student Services, No.115). (2006). Book by Melanie J. Guentzel and Becki Elkins Nesheim (Eds), Review by Stephanie Ritrievi. San Francisco, CA: Jossey –Bass. 120pp., $27.00 (paperback).  ISBN # 0-7879-9057-4
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