12 (or so) "Must Read" Books for Professionals in Student Development

By Drew Moser

    CC Image "Powell's City of Books" courtesy of Gonzalo Saenz on Flickr.

    There are many great resources available to us in our profession as student development practitioners. For the new professional, here is a list to get you started, in no particular order. Happy reading!

    1. The Idea of a Christian College—Arthur F. Holmes (Eerdmans, 1987)

    This revised edition of a classic text provides a concise case for the role of the Christian college and its distinctive mission and contribution. According to Holmes, the Christian college "should be an education that cultivates the creative and active integration of faith and learning, of faith and culture."

    2. How Colleges Work: The Cybernetics of Academic Organization and Leadership—Robert Birnbaum (Jossey-Bass, 1991)

    This is arguably THE text for organizational leadership in higher education, and provides a theoretical understanding of the entire college system. As a student development professional, this book will shed important light into common dynamics of power and governance among faculty and administration.

    3. Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership—Lee Bolman and Terrance Deal (4th edition, Jossey-Bass, 2008)

    When a book is printed in a fourth edition, it’s evidence that it resonates. A classic leadership text, Bolman and Deal’s four-frame model (structural, human resource, political, and symbolic) of organizations is common vernacular in higher education circles.

    4. The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior—Steve Garber (IVP, 2007)

    Voted one of Christianity Today's Books of the Year, Garber’s book explores the important choices made during the college years. A helpful resource for student development practitioners, Garber helps us understand how college students connect what they believe about the world with how they live in it. Given that much of our work is in the realm of journeying with students in their exploration of Christian vocation, this book is a must read.

    5. Life Together—Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Zondervan, 2009)

    A classic work on spiritual community, Bonhoeffer’s reflections upon cultivating community amid the strife of World War II are still powerful today. Life Together offers poignant lessons on the cultivation of Christian community on a college campus.

    6. Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality—Wesley Hill (Zondervan, 2010)

    Wesley Hill’s honest reflections regarding the theological exploration of his sexuality are a helpful resource as we seek to walk alongside students who are also struggling to understand their own sexuality.

    7. Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults: Life Giving Rhythms for Spiritual    Transformation—Richard Dunn and Jana Sundene (IVP, 2012).

    In this book, Dunn and Sundene introduce the reader to the new stage of college student life between adolescence and adulthood: emerging adulthood.  This "provisional adulthood" is a time of identity exploration and instability in which one's vocation, purpose, relationships and spirituality are all being renegotiated.

    8. Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Formation & Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works—James K. A. Smith (Baker, 2009, 2013)

    The first two volumes in Smith’s “Cultural Liturgies” trilogy, these books analyze the cultural liturgies that form and shape Christian institutions, particularly Christian colleges. The Calvin philosopher provides a philosophical, yet accessible treatment of how habits and desire inform and form that which we worship. Smith has much to say regarding the challenge and opportunity of the Christian college and writes this trilogy with Christian educators in mind.

    9. Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults—Christian Smith (Oxford, 2009)

    Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith explores critical questions surrounding the religious and spiritual lives of college students in Souls in Transition.  These questions include: How important is religion for young people in America today? What are the major influences on their developing spiritual lives? How do their religious beliefs and practices change as young people enter into adulthood? 

    10. How College Affects Students: A Third Decade of Research—Ernest Pascarella and Patrick Terenzini (Jossey-Bass, 2005)

    This is the revised volume of Pascarell and Terenzini’s award-winning research on the impacts of college on students. What truly impacts student development and learning?

    11. History of American Higher Education, 2nd Edition—John Thelin (Johns Hopkins, 2011)

    In this historical survey of American higher education, Thelin provides a readable, accessible treatment of the historical landscape of colleges and universities since the founding of Harvard in 1636.

    12. Student Affairs Reconsidered: A Christian View of the Profession and its Contexts—Edited by David Guthrie (University Press of America, 1997)

    This book asks Christian educators—particularly those involved in the student affairs profession—to become more engaged with the idea that the programs offered, classes taught, disciplinary actions dispensed, policies framed, and the like, are the arenas in which Christianity must take shape.

    Drew Moser serves as Associate Dean of Students at Taylor University in Upland, IN and Editor of ACSD Ideas.

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