SRU professors coauthor book of student affairs case studies


Molly Mistretta, Michael Ignelzi and Stacy Jacob

(From left) Slippery Rock University student affairs in higher education professors Molly Mistretta, Michael Ignelzi and Stacy Jacob are three of the four coauthors of a book about student affairs case studies, "Complex Cases in Student Affairs." Photo by Benton Palermo, a senior communication: digital media major from Beaver

Oct. 26, 2017

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - One of the coauthors of a recently published book about student affairs case studies described it as a "very Slippery Rock type of book" from beginning to end. That doesn't mean the 22 original cases actually took place at Slippery Rock University - they are all cases with fictional characters and institutions - but rather the entire book was written by current and former SRU students and faculty.

"Complex Cases in Student Affairs," released this month by Routledge Publishing, immerses readers in a variety of problems that student affairs professionals encounter and how they might be addressed using professional practice and applying theory. The book is an ideal resource for faculty teaching student affairs and other higher education graduate preparation programs, as well as a tool for early professionals in the student affairs field.

Each of the case studies was first written by students in SRU's student affairs in higher education master's program as part of their comprehensive exam to complete their degrees. As graduates of the program, they entered coauthoring agreements with their former professors who revised the cases for the book. Beyond the SRU collaboration, the book is unique in that not many student affairs case studies books exist for teaching faculty, particularly for such a variety of topics that are relevant for early-career professionals.

"We didn't see anything out there quite like what we had," said coauthor Michael Ignelzi, professor of counseling and development. "But what really motivated us is the opportunity to showcase the work of our students."

Cases range from matters of student conduct, roommate conflict, admissions and social media to support for veterans, minorities and other underrepresented groups. There's even a case about disability support animals and emotional support pets.

"Institutions of higher education are more complex than they've ever been," said coauthor Stacy Jacob, assistant professor of counseling and development, who added that in days gone by, university presidents handled disciplinary issues rather than a student conduct office. "The problem with the case books out in the field is they are very simplified cases and one-dimensional, so when you bring them into the classroom to teach, they don't represent real life very well. When a big problem hits a campus it's never (handled exclusively) in one office."

The four coauthors also include Molly Mistretta, assistant professor of counseling and development; and Melissa Rychener, a former SRU faculty member who is now the coordinator of the intercultural preparation and competency curriculum at Duquesne University. In addition to the co-authorship with faculty and students, SRU students Alexander Rizzutto, a 2017 graduate with a master's degree in student affairs in higher education from Oakdale, and Jillian Pavlick, a current master's student in student affairs in higher education from Sharpsville, contributed copyediting and chapter indexing, respectively.

Together, the four coauthors culled through more than seven years of comprehensive exams to select case studies for the book that represent the widest variety of issues for classes that teach theories such as law, development and environment.

"Case studies are a great way to get students to think critically," Mistretta said. "Instead of lecturing students and asking them to regurgitate that information back, we want to give students an opportunity to think critically about their professional practice and apply theory to their future practice."

For example, an environmental theory can look at how physical spaces on campus can marginalize or support students' needs. A case in the book provides a real-life example of an institution marketed as "military-friendly," but without a private room for student veterans to share their experiences.

"Complex Cases in Student Affairs" is available for sale online by clicking here.

The coauthors hope the book appeals not only to a wide range of faculty who are teaching a variety of classes, but also to student affairs divisions to use as in-service training for their new and younger professionals.

"We all have backgrounds in student affairs administration," Mistretta added. "I can't think how many times somebody has said to me, 'Oh, I ought to write a book.' ... well, actually, we did."

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