50 Great Books that Student Affairs Professionals Are Adding to Their 2021 Reading Lists

Books became my escape from the realities of the outside world throughout 2020.

My 2021 resolution is to read at least one book a month that is focused on personal reflection and professional growth.

So, given that professional development budgets at many institutions are being slashed or thrown out the window altogether, I’ve sought out books that will help student affairs professionals grow in their knowledge, self-reflection, and overall growth.

Turns out, there’s a lot of amazing books out there! Browse through my megalist of great reads for student affairs professionals. Hopefully a few (or many) will spark your interest!

Career Development

1. Debunking the Myth of Job Fit in Higher Education and Student Affairs edited by Brian J. Reece, Vu T. Tran, Elliott N. DeVore, and Gabby Porcaro

“Fit” is a term used by nearly everyone in student affairs throughout the hiring process, from search committees and hiring managers to supervisors and HR professionals. This book opens a conversation about the use of “job fit” as a tool for exclusion that authors believe needs to be more critically investigated.

2. Creating Sustainable Careers in Student Affairs edited by Margaret Sallee

Challenging ideal worker norms, Sallee’s book critiques the pitfalls of a career in student affairs and discusses how institutions can work to improve work cultures and promote wellness for student affairs professionals. 

3. Never Good Enough by Dr. Monica Ramirez Basco  

Dr. Basco helps readers understand their perfectionism and make the best of it. Filled with “practical advice, encouragement, and strategies for self-discovery,” this self-help book can help SA pros of all levels manage their perfectionism.

4. Let Them See You by Porter Braswell

This is a collection of Braswell’s blunt advice and mentorship for all sorts of professionals, from college students to mid-level professionals. It aims to serve as “the guide to getting hired, being promoted, and thriving professionally for the 40 million people of color in the workplace.”

5. The Strategic Guide to Shaping Your Student Affairs Career by Sonja Ardoin

This book is geared toward any student affairs professional who wants to strategically shape their career path ― and will be particularly helpful to people in early or mid-career or contemplating a career in student affairs.

6. Beginning Your Journey: A Guide for New Professionals in Student Affairs edited by Marilyn J. Amey and Lori M. Reesor

Beginning Your Journey addresses “the most critical and current issues for those entering the field of student affairs” from the perspective of seasoned student affairs leaders and new professionals.

7. A Day in the Life of a Student Affairs Educator by Sarah M. Marshall and Anne M. Hornak

This book constitutes a collection of case studies that explore critical issues faced by new professionals in student affairs with scenarios designed to develop ACPA/NASPA Professional Competencies.

8. 20+ Higher Ed Theories I Have Learned From Grad School by Quan M Phan

Whether you’re in the midst of learning about student development theories for the first time or are looking to brush up on your Chickering, Phan’s graphic novel is chock-full of illustrations that simplify even the most daunting of theories.

9. A Guide to Becoming a Scholarly Practitioner in Student Affairs by Lisa J. Hatfield and Vicki L. Wise

This book offers practical guidance to anyone in the field interested in presenting at conferences or publishing in scholarly and professional journals. Hatfield and Wise discuss research’s vital role on influencing and shaping the future of student affairs and in promoting continuous learning.

Current Issues

10. The College Dropout Scandal by David L. Kirp

This book outlines the “fixable” problem of college attrition to assure that more students have a quality education and earn diplomas. Kirp provides historical data on the graduation gaps between low-income, Black and Latinx, first-generation students, and their peers.

11. College of the Overwhelmed: The Campus Mental Health Crisis and What to Do About It by Richard Kaidson M.D. and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo

Written for parents, students, college counselors, and administrators, College of the Overwhelmed explores “the stressors that cause so many college students to suffer psychological problems and provides insights about the current mental health crisis.”

12. Enough Is Enough: A Student Affairs Perspective on Preparedness and Response to a Campus Shooting by Brandi Hephner LaBanc and Brian O. Hemphill

Through first-hand accounts, this book provides a historial recount of violence, suicide prevention, and mental health promotion. It offers a comprehensive plan for creating a campus-wide system to collect information about students who are at risk for harming themselves or others.

13. Effective Strategies for Supporting Student Civic Engagement by Marissa Corrente, Jonathan Hilsher, Stephanie King, and Melinda L. Tejada

This NASPA briefing publication offers effective strategies for student affairs educators in supporting student activism movements on college and university campuses and navigating the First Amendment. 

14. The Price of Admission by Daniel Golden

Based on three years of investigative report­ing, Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Daniel Golden aims to shatter the myth of an American meri­tocracy through an analysis of admissions at the nation’s most elite colleges and universities.

15. Crisis, Compassion, and Resiliency in Student Affairs by Marijo Russell O’Grady and  Katie Treadwell

When a traumatic event occurs, student affairs professionals must be ready to respond and lead. This NASPA publication provides “student affairs professionals of all levels with strategies and advice for creating a mindset to navigate the complexity that results from encountering crises both large and small.”

16. Dismantling Hazing in Greek-Letter Organizations: Effective Practices for Prevention, Response, and Campus Engagement by Jason L. Meriwether

Dismantling Hazing offers readers strategies to address the complexities of hazing culture and the challenges associated with recruitment and initiation.

17. The Contested Campus by Brandi Hephner LaBanc, Frank Fernandez, Neal Hutchens, and Kerry Brian Melear

The Contested Campus “combines consideration of contemporary legal issues and standards with the exercise of professional expertise and experience.” Written for student affairs professionals of all levels, the book discusses an array of complex free speech issues that may arise on campuses.

18. Connected Teaching: Relationship, Power, and Mattering in Higher Education by Harriet L. Schwartz 

Harriet Schwartz argues that the role of teachers and administrators is as important as ever and is evolving profoundly. She stresses that the relationships faculty and staff have with individual students and with classes and cohorts are the essential driver of teaching and learning.

19. Reflecting Back, Looking Forward: Civil Rights and Student Affairs by Joy Gaston, Kathryn Nemeth Tuttle, Susan B. Twombly, Kelly Ward, and Lisa E. Wolf-Wendel

The book contains 18 first-person narrative accounts taken from the authors’ interviews with student affairs administrators from the civil rights era.

20. Five Things Student Affairs Professionals Can Do to Better Support Foster Care Alumni by Molly Sarrubi

This book highlights the “unique experiences of students with a history of foster care and the personal and social impacts of foster care on their education trajectories,” as well as points of significance for student affairs professionals around best supporting this population. 

21. College in the Crosshairs by Brandi Hephner LaBanc and Brian O. Hemphill

This book provides leaders in higher education with the latest data and research on campus violence, an analysis of trends, and background on the national legislation on gun policies and their impact on colleges.

Equity & Inclusion

22. From Equity Talk to Equity Walk: Expanding Practitioner Knowledge for Racial Justice in Higher Education by Tia Brown McNair, Estela Mara Bensimon, and Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux

Drawing from campus-based research projects sponsored by the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the Center for Urban Education, this resource recommends “steps for examining equity in student achievement.”

23. Trans* Policies & Experiences in Housing & Residence Life edited by Jason C. Garvey, Stephanie H. Chang, Z Nicolazzo, and Rex Jackson

Housing and Residence Life plays an important role in the safety, well-being, and sense of belonging for college students, but gender-inclusive policies and practices in housing are largely under-explored in student affairs and higher education publications. This book seeks to support gender-inclusive policies in housing and highlight harmful policies affecting trans* and non-binary students.

24. Why Aren’t We There Yet? Edited by Jan Arminio, Vasti Torres, and Raechele L. Pope

The contributors to this book “seek to offer new insights to improve student affairs, emphasizing action that recognizes this is a complex and multi-faceted process, and beginning with the assertion that, without recognizing the influences of privilege and inequality, we educators cannot promote truly welcoming environments.”

25. Straddling Class in the Academy by Sonja Ardoin and becky martinez

Following the experiences of 26 students, administrators, and faculty from poor and working-class backgrounds, Ardoin and martinez seek to “bring social class identity to the forefront of our consciousness, conversations, and behaviors and compel those in the academy to recognize classism and reimagine higher education.”

26. The Table: Stories from Black Women in Student Affairs by Sierra Hairston and Ashley Young-Waters

This book is an anthology of the various trials and triumphs that 11 Black women encountered while working in student affairs. Instead of waiting for a seat at the table, they decided to build their own and invite others to find power in their stories.

27. Facilitating Intergroup Dialogues by Kelly E. Maxwell, Biren Ratnesh Nagda, and Monita C. Thompson

This volume “draws on the experiences of contributors and on emerging research to address the role of intergroup dialogue facilitators, the training and support of facilitators, and ways of improving practice in both educational and community settings.”

28. The Lives of Campus Custodians: Insights into Corporatization and Civic Disengagement in the Academy by Peter M. Magolda

This book dives into the lives and working conditions of a group of people who are usually rendered invisible on college campuses: the custodians who clean our offices, residence halls, bathrooms, and public spaces. In doing so, it also reveals the universities’ equally invisible practices that frequently contradict their espoused values of inclusion and equity.

29. Is Everyone Really Equal?: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education by Ozlem Sensoy and Robin Diangelo

This book provides clear-cut answers to the most common stumbling blocks to understanding social justice including intersectionality and classism, contemporary activism, White Settler societies and colonialism, common social patterns, and “vocabulary to practice using.”

30. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

In this empathetic yet straightforward coverage of race in America, Ijeoma Oluo guides the conversation on a broad range of topics including police brutality, white privilege, and the Black Lives Matter movement to offer readers struggling with the complexities of race a way to have real, honest conversations.

31. Title IX Guide: Going Above and Beyond Compliance by Allison Tombros Korman and Jennifer E. Henkle

Published in July 2020, this NASPA Initiative-sponsored book provides professionals and institutions with a roadmap to not only meet the new Title IX standards but to “consider how they may help reach a higher ceiling above and beyond meeting compliance.”

32. College Aspirations and Access in Working-Class Rural Communities: The Mixed Signals, Challenges, and New Language First-Generation Students Encounter by Sonja Ardoin

Based on the lived experiences of students and high school counselors, Ardoin’s book “examines how a working-class, rural environment influences students’ opportunities to pursue higher education and engage in the college choice process.”

33. Beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act by Neal E. Lipsitz, Kaela Parks, and Mary Lee Vance

This book seeks to act as a reference guide for higher education professionals who work with students with disabilities and want to stay up to date on the latest standards of the ADA.

34. Clearing the Path for First-Generation College Students by Ashley C. Rondini, Nicolas P. Simon, and Bedelia Nicola Richards

This volume provides “insight into the dilemmas that arise from the transformation of students’ class identities in pursuit of upward mobility, as well as their quest for community and a sense of belonging on college campuses that have not been historically designed for them.”

35. Social Class Supports by Georgianna Martin and Sonja Ardoin

This book “presents a comprehensive range of strategies that provide the fundamental support that poor and working-class students need to succeed while at the same time dismantling the inequitable barriers that make college difficult to navigate.”

36. Multicultural Student Services on Campus edited by Dr. D-L Stewart

The book discusses the history and philosophy of multicultural student services and considers the challenges and opportunities ahead.

37. Academic Ableism by Jay Timothy Dolmage

Academic Ableism brings together disability studies and institutional critique to “recognize the ways that disability is composed in and by higher education, and rewrites the spaces, times, and economies of disability in higher education to place disability front and center.”

38. Empowering Women in Higher Education and Student Affairs by Penny A. Pasque and Shelley Errington Nicholson

Written collaboratively by an intergenerational group of cisgender and transgender women and men with differing social identities, feminist perspectives, and professional identities, this guidebook seeks to address the intersection of gender and women’s other social identities as they affect women’s careers in student affairs.

Senior SA Pros

39. Keep Calm and Call the Dean of Students: A Guide to Understanding the Many Facets of the Dean of Students’ Role edited by Art Munin and Lori White

Through anecdotes provided by experienced deans, this book provides “vivid first-hand accounts of what’s involved in managing the multiple roles of the deanship, its immense personal rewards, and the positive impact that practitioners can make in the lives of students.”

40. Inclusive Leadership: The Definitive Guide to Developing and Executing an Impactful Diversity and Inclusion Strategy by Charlotte Sweeney and Fleur Bothwick

Inclusive Leadership aims to help readers drive culture change using organizational development principles. As the author put it, “when people feel included and able to reach their full potential, they are more engaged, more productive and often more creative.”

41. Disruptive Transformation: Leading Creative and Innovative Teams in Higher Education by Robert D. Kelly and Colin Stewart

This volume explores “best practices in creative and innovative leadership in higher education: intersections between diversity, inclusion, and creative leadership, barriers for leading creatively, and the importance of creativity and innovation at the senior level.”

42. Student Affairs Fundraising: Raising Funds to Raise the Bar by Barbara B. Rose, Glenn Gittings, and Sophie W. Penney

Each chapter in this book highlights “fundraising strategies and resources, as well as hands-on exercises to help readers hone their fundraising skills” vital to senior student affairs professionals.

43. Accreditation and the Role of the Student Affairs Educator by Kimberly R. Allen

With increased emphasis on student affairs’ contribution to student learning, increasing numbers of student affairs educators are being called upon to participate in the regional accreditation process. This guide affords student affairs professionals the opportunity to broaden their understanding of accreditation and the possibilities therein.

Virtual Learning

44. Digital Leadership in Higher Education: Purposeful Social Media in a Connected World by Josie Ahlquist

Ahlquist takes a deep dive into the world of online leadership and using digital platforms to connect. Meant for readers involved in higher ed at all levels, this book presents the latest research on basic social media skills, online community building, and critical digital engagement strategies.

45. College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students by Jeffrey J. Selingo

Jeffrey J. Selingo, editor-at-large of the Chronicle of Higher Education, turns a critical eye on the current state of higher education and predicts how technology will transform it for the better.

46. Online & Engaged: Innovative Student Affairs Practices for Online Learner Success by  Stephanie Smith Budhai

With many campuses continuing into the new year with remote learning, Online & Engaged shares best practices, case studies, examples, and strategies for providing authentic student development support to online learners.

Memoirs & Fiction

47. Educated by Tara Westover

Westover’s coming-of-age memoir describes her journey from rural Minnesota, where she received little education, to earning her doctorate in intellectual history from Trinity College, Cambridge.

48. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

For a page-turning fiction read, check out The Vanishing Half, which considers identity and the past as it shapes a set of twin Black sisters’ decisions, desires, and expectations. The New York Times named the novel the Best Book of the Year and said, “Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate, and wise.” 

49. Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride

Sarah McBride, a Delaware State Senator-Elect, describes how she struggled with her decision to come out as a transgender woman while she was serving as student body president at American University.  It wasn’t until her Facebook post announcing her gender identity went viral that she realized just how much impact her story could have on the country.

50. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

Therapist Lori Gottlieb explores the deeper challenges of her patients’ lives and finds that the questions they are struggling with are the very ones she is now bringing to her own therapist. This book dives into the challenges of empathy and the big questions many of us struggle with beyond our college years.

What other awesome books are you excited about? We’d love to learn about them. Connect with us @themoderncampus. And for more professional development opportunities, check out 42 Conferences and Pro Dev Opportunities SA Pros Will Love Next Year.


Corinna Kraemer

About the author: Corinna Kraemer (she/her) works in ed tech and loves painting, running, and hanging out with her cat, Mr. K. She hopes her posts will finally help her dad understand what her career in student affairs is all about. Learn how we can help get your students involved.