Book by:Tamara Yakaboski and Danielle De Sawal
Review by: Anthony Smothers
Academic Advising
University of Northern Iowa

Tamara Yakaboski and Danielle De Sawal’s book The State of the College Union celebrates the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) 100th anniversary through expert analysis of the history, purpose, and future of college unions using the latest data and research on college students (p. 1). At first glance, advisors may dismiss a book on college unions’ auxiliary services as not related to advising. However, nine chapters from contributing authors on learning-centered campus engagement is what makes this book such an immense read. Knowledge of community, engagement, and understanding cultural competency are important themes.

The authors support the ever changing community with comprehensive discussion on population change, impact of diversity, and a supportive environment. The dynamics of understanding students who are veterans, LBGT, Hispanic, and from Asian countries impacts the needs in communities and is thought-provoking (p. 15). Advisors should reflect on intentional inclusivity of mission, vision, and goal statements, advising syllabus, and cultural competency with training and development to engage students in the learning process. Advisors may also examine if they are hiring staff who not only reflect their student population, but also provide positive role models.

Student engagement and the authors’ discussion on co-curricular learning opportunities, leadership, employment, governance, and measuring those activities is one of the most beneficial components of this book. Advisors often have conversations with students about engagement, “what are you involved in or have you talked with your professor?” This chapter serves as a reminder of the complexity and importance of engagement with students as with Appreciative Advising (Bloom, Hudson, He, 2008). The authors discuss physical space, technology, fundraising, and security as important issues to consider as factors of student engagement.

The most important issue facing higher education is the last chapter on assessment, evaluation, and research of learning outcomes. With the increase in public accountability and understanding of resources spent, academic advisors are finding themselves needing assessment, evaluation, and research to justify the purpose, intentions, and learning outcomes with advising (p. 91). Data will direct future decisions on programming, staffing resources, physical space, funding, and mission of higher education institutions. Understanding the learning outcomes of student engagement and the community provides the road map to improvement and communication of the purpose of higher education.

The State of the College Union lacks more discussion of the diversity of functions that unions serve outside the university community. Some unions have ballrooms for wedding receptions, guest speakers, bowling alleys, conferences, symposiums, and greater community events. The engagement of alumni, community leaders, and related purposes of the university is important not to forget.

This short book is packed with great information on students and issues facing higher education for academic advisors to reflect and act on these cultural changes in our learning community. “It is the student’s responsibility to acquire skills and gain knowledge, and the institution and college unions responsibility to provide the environment in which students can learn and develop” (Axelson & Flick, 2010).


Axelson, R. D., & Flick, A. (2010). Defining student engagement. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 43(1), 38-43.

Bloom, J. L., Hutson, B. L., & He, Y. (2008). The appreciative advising revolution. Champaign, IL: Stipes Publishing.

The State of the College Union: Contemporary Issues and Trends (2014). Book by Tamara Yakaboski and Daniele M. De Sawal (Eds.). Review by Anthony Smothers. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. 112 pp., $29.00, (Paperback). ISBN 978-1-118-87888-0

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