Student Affairs expert’s new book explores student development theory

Dr. D-L Stewart teaches a student affairs classSchool of Education Professor D-L Stewart recently celebrated the release of his new book, Rethinking College Student Development Theory Using Critical Frameworks, focused on exploring student development theories throughout three sections.

The first section focuses on “third wave” theories that expand student development through critical race theory, queer theory, feminist theory, and more. The second section uses these theories to focus on certain aspects of student development using personal narratives and the re-envisioning of narratives in the light of various constructs. The last section looks at the involvement of practice and how critical frameworks can be implemented in student development theory.

“I believe that the text takes a unique view of the general topic of college student development,” said Stewart. “In this text, we consider first paradigms or ways of understanding what knowledge is and then what constructs, or key concepts, drive the conceptualization of student development in college. We also took care to deliberately tackle the question of what difference developmental theory makes in student affairs practice.”

Bringing the elements together

As one of the book’s three main editors, Stewart had a heavy influence in the books content and publication. He assisted in the development of the book’s concept, outlining the book’s chapters and recruiting authors to write towards each issue. After the initial creation and thought process, Stewart and his team then reviewed the chapters and provided feedback, helping to ensure there were no errors throughout the work.

As a co-author of three chapters, Stewart went through a similar process in developing and drafting each chapter.

“My co-authors and I first discussed the overall goals for the chapter, what message we wanted to get across. Then we discussed which of us would take the lead in writing the various elements of the chapter,” he said. “We brought all the elements together, and each reviewed and offered edits and feedback. Really, it was an iterative process.”

Three chapters, each focused on a different concept

“Social Construction of Identities,” a chapter Stewart co-authored with Shaunda Brown, focuses on the application of QueerCrit, quare theories, and post-humanism to rethink the social construction of identities. Including a narrative from Brown, they explain how social construction is facilitated and how they provide a destabilizing and dehumanizing view of identity.

The chapter Stewart co-authored with Alex C. Lange, “High Impact Practices,” focuses on the difference of “low impact” and “high impact” practices in education, and how postsecondary education should consider different ways to maintain positive impacts on students through learning, the making of meaning, and development.

Finally, “Rethinking Student Development,” co-authored with Elisa S. Abes, Antonio Duran and Susan R. Jones, finishes the book by providing a summary and conclusion of student development theory, and how it can be developed and transformed in the future. 

“My co-authors ranged from mentees and graduate students to other senior faculty,” said Stewart. “Regardless of the position they held, my co-authors were excellent company and collaborators, as were my co-editors for the book itself. This was the first time that the three of us worked together on a project, and it was enjoyable and intellectually stimulating.”

Stewart’s fellow School of Education faculty member, Associate Professor OiYan Poon, is a co-author of the book’s chapter, “Critical Race Theory: Interrogating Race and Racism in College Students’ Development.” The chapter uses Critical Race Theory, a theoretical framework that recognizes the pervasiveness of racism in U.S. society, to reconsider student development.

Impacting the field of student affairs

An expert in student affairs, Stewart and his research are well-known in the field. Moving forward, he hopes Rethinking College Student Development Theory Using Critical Frameworks makes a difference in the world of higher education and student development theory.

“We hope that this book will inform how those preparing for careers in student affairs understand and use student development theory for college populations,” he said. “We also hope that those who research student development might find support in this text for new directions and visions for both the study and application of college student development theory using critical theoretical frameworks.”

The School of Education is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.