developing the whole student: the collegiate ideal

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  • Traditional models for developing the whole student no longer servethe diverse population currently pursuing higher education. A newphilosophy that focuses on the partnership between student affairsprofessionals and faculty is necessary to further student development.

    Developing the Whole Student: TheCollegiate Ideal

    Lisa E. Wolf-Wendel, Marti Ruel

    American higher education has long operated under the assumption that itcan positively affect the growth and development of its students. This belief,as expressed by Bowen (1977), assumes that academic environments [are]calculated to bring about desired change in people and that colleges areplaces of stirring, catalysts to help people find their unique ways (Bowen,p. 15). It is clear that the domain of influence in American higher educa-tion has never been focused exclusively on the intellect. Rather, one of themajor purposes of American higher education is to develop the whole per-son. In this chapter, we trace the development of this purpose and suggesthow theories of student development framed in terms of developing thewhole person are limited when applied to an increasingly diverse studentpopulation.

    The colonial colleges were concerned with fostering the intellectual,religious, and moral development of students (Lucas, 1994). In the 1880s,American colleges continued to rally around the notion of not only educat-ing the students intellect, but also helping the student to understand classresponsibility, religion, property, and unhurried change (Rudolph, 1977,p. 174). By the turn of the century, American higher education had grownmore complex and programs of study more specialized, with many facultybecoming engaged in the triple demands of teaching, research, and service.With these increasing faculty responsibilities along with both the increas-ing number and heterogeneity of students, the task of developing the wholeperson shifted from being the exclusive domain of the faculty to becomingthe primary responsibility of student personnel administrators (Appleton,Briggs, and Rhatigan, 1978).

    NEW DIRECTIONS FOR HIGHER EDUCATION, no. 105, Spring 1999 Jossey-Bass Publishers 35


    For student affairs administrators, the commitment to educating thewhole person has been augmented and reinforced over the years. In 1937, theAmerican Council on Education published the first Student Personnel Pointof View. Among other points, this treatise emphasized the importance of edu-cating the student as a whole.

    It is the task of colleges and universities to vitalize this and other educationalpurposes so as to assist the student in developing to the limits of his potentiali-ties and in making his contribution to the betterment of society. . . . This phi-losophy imposes upon educational institutions the obligation to consider . . . thedevelopment of the student as a person rather than . . . his intellectual trainingalone.

    These beliefs were reaffirmed in 1949, when a revised Student Person-nel Point of View Statement was published. In light of U.S. involvement inWorld War II, this new statement emphasized the need for higher educationto foster education for democracy, to enhance global understanding, and tohelp students gain the skills to solve social problems. The 1949 statementasserts:

    The development of students as whole persons interacting in social situations isthe central concern of student personnel work. . . . The concept of education isbroadened to include attention to the students well-rounded developmentphysically, socially, emotionally and spiritually, as well as intellectually. The stu-dent is thought of as a responsible participant in his own development and notas a passive recipient.

    Subsequent documents written by student affairs professionals alsoemphasize the importance of educating the whole student. The 1974 state-ment affirms that in higher education cognitive mastery of knowledgeshould be integrated with the development of persons along with culturalawareness, skills, and community responsibility. Similarly, the 1984 state-ment asserts that student development is grounded in the dignity andworth of each person; the uniqueness of each person, and the opportunityfor each person to realize his or her fullest potential. In 1997, the NationalAssociation of Student Personnel Administrators and the American CollegePersonnel Association issued a statement of Principles of Good Practice forStudent Affairs. According to this statement:

    Our beliefs about higher education serve as the foundation for our commitmentto the development of the whole person; our collective professional values arederived from that commitment. Values evident across the history of studentaffairs work include an acceptance and appreciation of individual differences;lifelong learning; education for effective citizenship; student responsibility; on-going assessment of learning and performance (students and our own); plural-


    ism and multiculturalism; ethical and reflective student affairs practice; sup-porting and meeting the needs of students as individuals and in groups; andfreedom of expression with civility.

    Ways We Educate the Whole Person

    Toward the goal of educating the whole person, academic institutions, mostlyunder the auspices of student affairs professionals, have engaged in the cre-ation and sponsorship of a variety of activities. Such activities include, to namea few, new student orientation, residence hall programming, peer mentor pro-grams, student governance, student clubs, Greek life, career and personalcounseling, on-campus work opportunities, and community service activities.At the core of the student affairs movement are several theories that guide thedevelopment of such activities. While an examination of all of the relevant the-ories is not possible in this chapter, a brief look at three of the core theoriesilluminates some of the ways that American higher education has attemptedto develop the whole person. Limitations of these theories, in terms of how wecan use them to develop all students, are also discussed.

    One core hypothesis is Chickerings theory of human development, ini-tially developed in 1969 and revised in 1993. Broadly speaking, Chickeringand Reisser (1993) suggest seven vectors of development, or seven crises,that students typically face and ideally resolve during college. These vectorsinclude: (1) developing competence, (2) managing emotions, (3) movingthrough autonomy towards interdependence, (4) developing mature relation-ships, (5) establishing identity, (6) developing purpose, and (7) developingintegrity. Resolution of these crises is often facilitated by the collegiate envi-ronment. More specifically, through a combination of challenge and support,student affairs professionals help students to work through these crises towardsthe goal of developing more awareness, skill, confidence, complexity, stabil-ity, and integration (p. 34).

    Chickerings theory is influential in American higher education and can be seen,for example, within residence hall activities and programming, peer mentor pro-grams, and career and personal counseling centers. Chickerings theory is mosteasily applied to traditional-aged, residential students (Bean and Metzner, 1996).While Chickering and Reisser (1993) make an attempt to explain the relevanceof their model to older students, the application of the theory does not alwaystranslate into good practice for students who are non-traditional. That Chicker-ings theory best explains traditional students is not surprising given that mostof the psychologically-based developmental theories are founded on studies ofmainstream college students (Stage, 1996).

    Another guiding model for developing the whole person is Astins involve-ment theory, which suggests that the amount of physical and psychological


    energy that a student devotes to the academic experience is positively relatedto the impact of college on that student (Astin, 1977, p. 134). The theory issimilar to effort or time on task, and traditional interpretations of the the-ory put the onus on students to supply and expend the energy towards theiracademic experience. Involvement theory, which has been widely tested,hypothesizes that the more involved a student is in the collegiate experience,the more positive outcomes that student will reap from that experience (seefor example, Astin, 1977; Astin, 1993; Pascarella and Terenzini, 1991).

    It is the influence of Astins theory that encourages institutions of Ameri-can higher education to invest resources in an array of on-campus activities.Involvement theory is behind our belief that the more opportunities we pro-vide to our students, the more positive the impact of the college experience.Involvement theory is most typically applied to and measured by involvementin on-campus activities. As a result, those who benefit the most from involve-ment are traditional-aged, residential students who fit the model of studentbody president, resident advisor, and on-campus newspaper editor, to name afew. Involvement typically presumes that college activities, academic and social,are the main priority in students lives. Thus, application of involvement the-ory does not easily take into account the diverse backgrounds, needs, andexternal responsibilities of all of todays students. For example, given the finan-cial reality that exists on most college campuses, students who work, especiallyoff-campus, are potentially excluded from the benefits of guided involvement.Working students are just one group who potentially become excluded frombeing developed fully when campuses focus resources solely on traditional def-initions of involvement.

    Tintos (1987) theory of inte