Book by Laurie Schreiner, Michelle Louis and Denise Nelson (Eds.)
Review by Dani Kvanvig-Bohnsack
College of Human Development and Education
North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND

Thriving in Transitions: A Research-Based Approach to College Student Success offers a new way of thinking about student success based on the theoretical concept of thriving rather than the typical behavioral theories that surround most discussions about student success.  The concept of thriving is based on positive psychology theory and suggests that retention and graduation rates should not be the only measure of student success.   Rather thriving students do more than merely survive college and graduate; thriving students engage in higher level thinking, set goals, establish social connectedness, face academic challenges with a positive attitude and display mature emotional behaviors.  In this way, advisors, faculty and administrators will find that this book provides an excellent review of the various types of transitions college students face including: first-year students, students of color, high-risk students, sophomores, transfer students and seniors.  In addition to a review of the challenges associated with transitional phases, the authors provide strategies to help students thrive during these changes in their lives.
At a time in higher education when retention and graduation rates are prominent topics in department meetings and committees, this book was a breath of fresh air.  The theme of this book is centered around a holistic approach to higher education that looks at the student's overall experiences, perceptions and objectives.  The concept of thriving suggests that an expanded definition of student success – one that includes more than completion rates – is needed in higher education and that when advisors, faculty and administrators participate in activities that promote student learning and encourage student engagement, there will be an inherent increase in student persistence and success.

With this in mind, advisors who view their roles as developmental advisors rather than prescriptive advisors will appreciate how the book takes into consideration the student’s entire experience.  The authors contend that academic advisors are ideal people for teaching students coping strategies during transitions because advisors have the opportunity to develop strong personal connections with students.  

Advisors will also appreciate how the book is organized.  Each chapter targets a specific student population and uses research that outlines the types of transitions these students encounter.  While many books about student success are data and research focused, the authors integrate research with concrete examples and suggestions on how to help students thrive during transitional periods.  Advisors can easily implement some of these strategies including encouraging students to reframe negative events like a bad test grade or poor performance in a course to a learning experience in which they can gain valuable insight and self-reflection skills.  

Overall this book offers good reminders to advisors, faculty and administrators that our students come to us from various cultures, educational backgrounds and individual life experiences.  And during transitional periods in their college careers, it is our job to help students not just get through it, but thrive.

Thriving in Transitions: A Research Based Approach to College Student Success. (2012).  Book by Laurie Schreiner, Michelle Louis, and Denise Nelson (Ed.s). Review by Dani Kvanvig-Bohnsack. Columbia, SC: National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience. 216 pp., $35.00, (paperback), ISBN # 978-1-889271-83-5
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