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Education, Identity, and Cool Passions - Celebrating the Life of Art Chickering

Civic Engagement
August 19, 2020

On August 15, 2020, the student affairs profession lost a significantly influential researcher on early student development theory, Arthur W. Chickering. Art Chickering was one of the early influencers on holistic student development with his 1969 book, Education and Identity, which posited seven vectors to describe the personal development of students during college. The publication received the 1969 American Council on Education’s Eleanor Colford Morris book award for its contribution to higher education, and that recognition made “Chickering’s Seven Vectors” a household name in the profession. For more than five decades, Chickering continued to make an impact on research pertaining to student development and in the early 1990s, he evolved the seven vectors to pertain to the diversity of students who were entering higher education at the time.

With a long and distinguished career in higher education, Chickering made an impact on critical changes to the field through civic learning and democratic engagement, assessment, pedagogy, student learning, and diversity. He was a speaker for many NASPA events where he often shared his love for his wife Jo and his family - even calling love the eighth vector - confirming that his personal and professional lives were entwined, as he cared deeply for all. 

Chickering’s contributions to higher education provided a foundation for many to understand the early concepts of student development. His later work in the 2000s focused on infusing civic learning and democratic engagement into higher education pedagogy and the action of student engagement. Chickering encouraged educators to ensure that student activism was productive by inviting diverse opinions to balance competing interests. Much of his work regarding civic responsibility in higher education was the beginnings of the Association’s work with the NASPA CLDE Network. In 2014, Chickering shared his personal story of discovery and professional reflections through a NASPA publication, Cool Passion: Challenging Higher Education. NASPA was honored to publish Chickering’s story, detailing his search for the purpose and meaning which laid the foundation for his passion for higher education and support of students to be fully engaged citizens and life-long learners. 

Art Chickering will be sorely missed by many and NASPA will honor him during the 2021 NASPA Virtual Conference Annual Business Meeting this spring. Arthur W. Chickering was born April 17, 1927 and passed away peacefully surrounded by his family in Vermont. A celebration of his life will be held at a later date, yet to be determined.