GENERATION Z GOES TO COLLEGE
Generation Z Goes to College
Corey Seemiller and Meghan Grace
San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, 2016.
There is a new generation of leaders embarking upon college campuses, and they are changing the way of leadership in the United States. As this new generation, “Generation Z,” begins to flood college campus around the country, attention needs to be given to understand their uniqueness. Generation Z sees the world through multiple screens, but as evidenced by their we-centric attitudes, they recognize that societal issues are much larger than just themselves. With their loyalty, determination, and responsibility as well as realistic outlook on life inherited from Generation X, this generation is committed to those around them and motivated by making a difference.
The book serves as a guide and lays the foundation to construct a generation Z identity profile. Corey Seemiller and Meghan Grace have researched and analyzed the passions, hopes, struggles, and dreams of Generation Z members and share their findings through the ten chapters of this book.
Chapter 1: Who is Generation Z
Here, the authors compare Gen Z to older generations in terms of personality characteristics, historical context, and interactivity. This conversation helps the reader understand the role that the previous culture has played into the development of each generation and how each generation has left its mark on culture. For the purpose of this book, Generation Z is defined as those born from 1995 through 2010. Having their world completely shaped by the Internet, they are often also aptly referred to as digital natives, the Net Generation, or iGeneration.
Chapter 2: Beliefs and Perspectives
Chapter 2 looks at Gen Z personality traits and perspectives on the world, religion, and politics. Generation Z students described themselves as loyal, thoughtful, compassionate, open-minded, and responsible, suggesting that this could be a mature and focused group of students who have concern for others. Students in Generation Z are empowered with information and communication tools and have access to thought leaders and power brokers. They possess a mind-set that they can change institutions.
Chapter 3: Communication Platforms
Chapter 3 looks at the many platforms and methods of communication that Generation Z uses and how they have lived their whole lives in the Digital Age. Although they can communicate through technology at any time, they still prefer face-to-face communication. They, like other generations before them, crave authentic connection with others. Being able to communicate using multiple methods, however, can certainly augment the face-to-face interactions they enjoy.
Chapter 4: Social Media Use
In Chapter 4, it is clear that Generation Z students are versatile in their use of social media and use different platforms for different purposes. Although there are trends in social media use, some students might not have familiarity with particular platforms. Parents, family members, and authority figures need to be mindful about what platforms to use, how they use them, and where they enter the virtual space of Generation Z.
Chapter 5: Friends, Family, and Romance
Chapter 5 focuses on how today’s technology and access to the Internet have had an impact on Generation Z’s relationships. Where some generations might view technology as a barrier to relationships, Generation Z views it as a bridge to the people in their lives. It is important to recognize, though, that Generation Z believes technology is useful in developing existing relationships but not as a replacement to forging authentic relationships with friends, family, and romantic partners built on shared values and interests.
Chapter 6: Cares and Concerns
Chapter 6 describes that although Generation Z might be the “school shooting generation” they are also generally concerned about the welfare of everyone and not just themselves. Only one-quarter of the issues they identify as caring about are me-centric or focus entirely on the impact the issue has on oneself. The authors report that this generation is committed to community engagement just like their predecessors but are transitioning to new ways of engagement that highlight their passions.
Chapter 7: Engagement and Social Change
Chapter 7 describes how community engagement is paramount to Generation Z. Generation Z’s change agent mentality reflects their desire to make the world a better place even if it does not result in widespread public recognition for them. Helping Generation Z students engage civically in ways that fit their needs can be useful in capitalizing on their passions resulting in both learning and career preparation.
Chapter 8: Leadership Styles
Chapter 8 looks at the leadership and parenting models that have been formative to Generation Z, who were largely raised by Gen Xers. Generation Z is marked by a parental relationship as one of trusted mentors. Religious trends are also reported in this chapter. 41% of Generation Z students indicate attending religious services regularly and the study found that nearly half participate in organized religion. Local, national, and international religious leaders can be prominent figures in these students’ lives, however, only 8 percent identified religious leaders as their first choice of all role models.
Chapter 9: Maximizing Learning
Chapter 9 focuses on learning resources, environments, and decision making. Gen Z reports that they are competent multitaskers but unfortunately, what students might refer to as multitasking is likely an inability to focus.
Chapter 10: Working with Gen Z
This chapter provides an overview of strategies to assist college administrators, faculty, and staff in the higher education setting. These strategies may also be helpful to high school teachers, administrators, and parents as they prepare their students for college, policymakers as they consider funding allocations and new programs, and employers as they gear up for the transition of these students from college to career. The authors lay out six strategies that could be used to assist in working with Generation Z: relational strategies, operational strategies, instructional strategies, programmatic strategies, developmental strategies, and technological strategies.
The authors’ perspective is that of two former student affairs professionals who not only have studied this generation but also have worked with Generation Z students directly. Corey is a seasoned professional with twenty years of experience in higher education, and Meghan is a new professional coming into the field shortly after graduate school. Seemiller and Grace operate out of the assumption that Generation Z is often misunderstood by those from other generations. They further assume that by presenting data and reflections on this unique generation, others might have more success in relating to and working with Gen Z members.
This is not a Christian book. The authors do not share their own religious backgrounds, nor do they dwell on religious findings of Generation Z members. Seemiller and Grace approached this book from a purely academic, scholarly perspective and only briefly touched on religious trends and experiences of Generation Z.
AIM OF BOOK
The authors state that they have written this book as a way to share their research findings and those from other studies to help educators, parents, employers, students, and anyone else interested in preparing for this generation as they enter college and adulthood. As the authors state, “our hope is to better understand what makes this generation unique and provide insight into how to best engage these students during their time in higher education.” They accomplished this through a research study of over 1000 Gen Z students examining:
- Their characteristics, styles, and motivations
- How they learn, engage, communicate, and form relationships
- Pertinent social issues and outlook on life
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
The brevity and succinct nature of Generation Z Goes to College makes it a straightforward and insightful book for adults who work with current college students. The depth and breadth of the research makes the authors’ findings credible, although more research will be necessary as more Generation Z members go to college. Overall, this book is a good resource for campus pastors (or any person who is engaged with Generation Z students and young adults). This book can help the reader understand the personality and needs of Generation Z and help develop strategies to engage with this new generation of leaders.
One weakness of this book is the lack of available data for the authors to pull from. Since Generation Z is just entering college, there is not quite enough information to get a full understanding of overarching characteristics of the generation. However, even with limited data to draw from, the book is well sourced and provides as thorough an understanding of today’s college students as possible. Since Generation Z Goes to College is not an explicitly theological book, those engaged in college ministry will have to do their own work to translate the findings for their religious context.
[Review by Zachary Fletcher and Laura Nile]
 Seemiller, C., and Grace, M., Generation Z Goes To College, xxii