NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Navigating the college experience can be challenging. But two Stephen F. Austin State University faculty members have made it their mission to help incoming college students plot their educational experience with their recent book, “Thinking with Excellence: Navigating the College Journey and Beyond.”
“We have taken the advice shared, the successes gained and the failures learned from our undergraduate and graduate experiences to write a book that will hopefully enrich the lives of SFA students and beyond,” said Dr. Paul Shockley, lecturer in SFA’s Department of Multidisciplinary Programs.
While at a Center for Teaching and Learning conference last year, Shockley and Dr. Raul Prezas, associate professor in the Department of Human Services, were inspired to write a book addressing the “promises, pleasures and perils” of college.
“We were attending a presentation on first-generation college students and realized there is more we can do,” Shockley said. “Examining our dissimilar backgrounds, different cultural contexts and distinct areas of expertise, we knew we could create a publication that would assist in reaching first-generation students where they are and provide the skills to help them gain transformative educational experiences.”
The book was personal for Shockley and Prezas. Shockley, a first-generation student who graduated from SFA, used his college journey to address questions students in similar situations may face.
“I didn’t know what a GPA was until two months before I graduated from high school,” Shockley said.
On the other hand, Prezas grew up in an environment where higher education was expected.
“Loved ones like my abuela (grandmother) sacrificed so others could receive the highest level of education,” Prezas said. “My dad, mom and sibling all have doctoral degrees.”
Shockley and Prezas put their minds and personal college experiences together to write the book. The pair have collaborated on projects in the past.
“As colleagues from two different colleges, we discovered there is strength in community,” Prezas said.
Shockley’s expertise in philosophy in the College of Liberal and Applied Arts and Prezas background in speech language science in the James I. Perkins College of Education were incorporated into the book.
“We recognize that while this book can be a launching pad for students, whether first-generation or not, we are only scratching the surface. Much more is needed,” Shockley said.
The two professors met weekly and often visited with Dr. Jim Towns, professor of communication studies, regarding the content and form for the book. They worked with first-generation students, mostly minorities, in “an effort to see through the eyes of those who are different from us,” Prezas explained. Shockley shared the in-progress chapters with students in his philosophy and ethics courses and lectured on topics related to critical thinking.
“The chapters shared among the students provided opportunities for feedback to help ensure the material is beneficial on freshmen and sophomore levels,” Shockley said.
The book was peer reviewed, and many undergraduate and graduate students offered input. The manuscript also was sent to a company in the United Kingdom, which specializes in typography and imagery for books, to create the cover and offer insight on how to best present the material to the target audience.
Shockley and Prezas are now working on a Spanish edition with a third author.