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Putting Students First: How Colleges Develop Students Purposefully

ISBN: 978-1-882982-94-3
272 pages
December 2005, Jossey-Bass
Putting Students First: How Colleges Develop Students Purposefully (1882982940) cover image
In Putting Students First, the authors argue that colleges can and should invest in holistic student development by recognizing and building on the students’ search for purpose in life, intellectually, spiritually, and morally. Based on a study conducted at ten religiously-affiliated schools, the book urges all colleges to rethink their approach to teaching and advising the increasingly diverse students of today; their critical mission should be to prepare students to become ethically responsible and active contributors to society, as well as critical thinkers and skilled professionals.

Putting Students First offers perspectives and recommendations in areas of holistic student development such as

  • Understanding millennial college students
  • The role of faculty in defining culture
  • The design and implementation of curriculum
  • The impact of cocurricular involvement
  • Fostering relationships with on-campus and off-campus communities

By organizing the campus environment into “4Cs”—culture, curriculum, cocurriculum, and community—the authors create a conceptual framework for faculty, student affairs staff, and administrators to discuss, plan, and create college environments that effectively support the learning and development of students. Each chapter includes an introduction, evidence and analysis, a summary, and questions to help readers consider how to develop students holistically on their own campuses.

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About the Authors.




1 Putting Students First.


Why Is It Important to Put Students and Their Development First?

Who Are Today’s College Students?

Who Develops These Students?

In What Context Is Holistic Development Occurring?

Why Study Church-Related Colleges and Universities?


2 Conceptual Framework and Design of the Project.


Theoretical Bases for Holistic Student Development.

Faith, Spirituality, and Student Development.

Student Development and the Church-Related Context.

Conceptual Framework: Personal Investment Theory.

Project Design.


3 Culture.


Discerning and Acting on Institutional Mission.

Copyrighted Material.

vi Putting Students First.

Building on a Legacy.

Communicating Institutional Mission and Identity.


College Location.

Campus Facilities.

Expectations and Contributions of Faculty.

Faculty as Role Models.

Using a Career Perspective on Faculty Development.

Faculty Evaluation as a Reflection of Culture.

Support and Challenge.


Questions for Campus Conversations.

4 Curriculum.


Philosophical Foundations of the Curriculum.

Centrality of a Liberal Arts Education.

Integrating Faith and Learning.



Developmentally Tailored Experiences for Students.

Pedagogy of Engagement: Field-Based and Community-Based Learning.


Questions for Campus Conversations.

5 Cocurriculum.


Mutual Reinforcement of Learning.

Campus Rituals.

Residence Life.

Student Leadership.

Relationships With Coaches, Professional Staff, and Campus Ministry.

Faculty Interactions.

Immersion Experiences.


Questions for Campus Conversations.

6 Community.


Shared Governance.

Defining Community.

Maintaining Community Amidst Change.

Diversity Within Community.

Communities Beyond the Campus.

Dealing With Difference and External Communities.


Questions for Campus Conversations.

7 Creating Communities That Put Students First.


Chapter Overview.

Mission Is Reality, Not Rhetoric.

Learning and Development Are Integrated.

The Campus Community Fosters Support and Challenge.




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Larry A Braskamp received his B.A. from College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. In 1967, he joined the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a professor in the department of Educational Psychology, where he received a Distinguished Teacher Award. After serving at Nebraska as assistant to the chancellor, he came to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1976. There he held a number of administrative positions, including associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, director of the Office of Instructional and Management Services and acting dean of the College of Applied Life Studies. He was dean of the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) from 1989-1996. From 1996-1997, he was professor of policy studies in the College of Education and a faculty fellow in the International Center for Health Leadership Development at UIC. Currently he is professor emeritus of education at Loyola University Chicago, where he served as senior vice president for academic affairs and senior fellow at the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
His research interests include the role of church colleges in American Higher education and the role of faculty assessment in faculty development and organization decision-making. He is the coauthor or coeditor of six books, including Assessing Faculty Work: Enhancing Individual and Institutional Performance (Jossey-Bass, 1994), Evaluation of Campus Services and Programs (Jossey-Bass, 1987), and The Motivation Factor: A Theory of Personal Investment (Lexington Books, 1986), and has published more than 100 research articles and papers.

Lois Calian Trautvetter is associate director for Northwestern University's Higher Education Administration and Policy Program and assistant professor in the School of Education and Social Policy. She received her Ph.D. in higher education administration from the University of Michigan, her M.S. in polymer chemistry from Carnegie Mellon University, and her B.A. in chemistry from the University of Michigan, her M.S. in polymer chemistry from Carnegie Mellon University, and her B.A. in chemistry from The College of Wooster. She teaches college student development theory and research methodology courses. Her research interests include faculty and professional development issues such as productivity, enhancing research and teaching, motivation, and new and junior faculty. She is also interested the role, of church colleges in American higher education as well as professional development for K-12 teachers to improve math and science teaching, gender issues, and females in science. She participated as a researcher in the past two postsecondary national centers for education funded by the Department of Education (Office of Education Research and Improvement) and has written book chapters and articles on faculty. She also has patents as a chemist in the coatings and resins industry.

Kelly Ward is associate professor of higher education at Washington State University. Her research interests are in the areas of faculty work, including balancing teaching, research, and service; faculty involvement in the community; and balancing work and family for those on the tenure track. She is also interested in campus and community engagement, service-learning, and policy issues related to equity and diversity. Dr. Ward has held faculty and administrative positions at Oklahoma State University and the University of Montana. She earned her Ph.D. in higher education from Penn State University.

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"Putting Students First documents the tensions and triumphs of Christian higher education, reinforcing the argument that it provides a valuable contribution to society." (Teaching Theology and Religion, September 2008)

In recent years, universities have faced the criticism that higher education has deviated too far from its original mission to educate the student. In this book, the authors bring the spotlight back on the students by conducting in-depth studies of ten universities that exemplify the ideal of helping students find purpose; they then extract and present the main characteristics that make these institutions successful in holistic development of students. Their study, entitled “Fostering Student Development through Faculty Development” and funded by Lilly Endowment, Inc. and the John Templeton Foundation, selected ten colleges for case-studies out of 500 originally surveyed. The ten, all colleges associated with one of ten church denominations, varied in region, church denomination, size, affinity with the church, mission, adherence to religious perspective, selection process, and/or being a good place to work. All the schools had three common qualities: putting students first in their mission, committing to educate students holistically, and having desire to assist students in faith development.
The focus on holistic student development that the authors emphasize is rooted in the Personal Investment Theory. This theory looks at the relationship between the students’ patterns of behavior, sociocultural environment, and sense of self. The theory posits that students are personally invested when they use their time, money, and energy in curricular and extracurricular activities. Thus it links students’ engagement on campus to their personal sense of meaning and purpose. The book attempts to define, illustrate, and give integrated examples of holistic student development, as well as suggestions and courses of action for promoting and implementing it.
From their studies of the ten colleges, the authors recognize four key elements central to fostering holistic student development: culture, curriculum, cocurriculum, and community. In each of the colleges, these four components were shaped to primarily serve the student. Culture includes the mission and identity of the school and often embodies supporting and challenging the students. Curriculum must revolve around faculty creating safe classrooms in order to nurture student learning and development. The importance of relationships to facilitate student development manifests itself in the cocurricular realm. Finally, students need to feel like they are part of the community in order to learn and develop. These ‘4Cs’, as the authors term them, constitute the basis for holistic student development and must be looked at carefully at each institution to determine how to shape them to best fit the students. Additionally, throughout the book, the authors emphasize the importance of integrating the administration and the faculty: each should both support and challenge students to spur them to find purpose.
Putting Students First has done exactly that: it has demonstrated the essence of holistic student development and exemplified how to successfully implement it on the college campus. Each section of the book considers the specific roles of faculty, staff, administration, and ministry, but also underlines the importance of all working toward the common goal of developing the student purposefully. Questions at the end of each chapter serve to stimulate discussion among campus leaders on how to incorporate holistic student learning on their own campuses. Additionally, chapters describing the 4Cs include profiles of the colleges to provide insight into specific actions or programs that support a holistic approach to student development.
By selecting and scrutinizing these ten colleges, Braskamp, Trautvetter, and Ward demonstrate that higher education is indeed addressing the spiritual, emotional, and social needs of students. They illustrate the way these schools have been effective and provide a basis for further discussion and action. However, their study is limited to small, Christian, liberal arts colleges where teaching and students have traditionally been held in high regard. We have yet to see if these values are being or can be translated into a larger, more diverse higher education setting. (Searle Center for Teaching Excellence Newsletter, Nortwestern University, June 2006)

"One can read this book from the perspective of a public research or comprehensive university or community college and come away with ideas for creating environments that honor both skepticism and meaning-making, exploration and wholeness."
Jon F. Wergin, Professor, Ph.D. Program in Leadership and Change, Antioch University

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