Fostering Critical Hope (Part 2 of 3) What is Critical Hope? | Shea

written by: Heather D. Shea, Ph.D., 2023-2024 ACPA President

Author’s Note: This is the second of a three-part series for Developments exploring the concept and application of critical hope as adapted from the presidential address I offered at the 2023 ACPA Convention in New Orleans.

I distinctly remember one of the first books I read in my master’s program – a book called “When Hope and Fear Collide” by Arthur Levine and Jeanette Cureton, which described college students in the 1990s as motivated by a conflicting sense of hope and fear and positioned student affairs educators as those to both nurture students’ hope and also help them confront and overcome their fears (Levine & Cureton, 1998).

While Levine and Cureton’s book might have painted an overly simplistic picture of college students of the 90s, the juxtaposition of a generative and hopeful path–while acknowledging real and tangible fears – indeed a critical hope – is a path forward for us as an association as well as a profession.

Jeffrey Duncan-Andrade defined critical hope as the “ability to realistically assess one’s environment through a lens of equity and justice while also envisioning the possibility of a better future” (2009).

As one of those hopeful college students of the 90s that Levine and Cureton depicted, I acknowledge the fear we experience.  That is why cultivating hope is so critical. Much like gratitude, hope can be more of a practice we develop, rather than an emotion we await. Hope is critical to us – together – contributing to the field and being restorative to the profession. 

I’m not talking about toxic positivity–or a naive hope. Rather I’m talking about our collective responsibility to assess reality, acknowledge fear, and dream of the possibilities of a better future.

Audre Lorde said, “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

I have learned from a lifetime of dealing with anxiety and depression that I exist far more productively when I wade into uncertainty and acknowledge that I, like all of us, will likely make mistakes. I notice the fear I experience, but I don’t let it become me. I am at my most effective when I nurture adaptable and flexible expectations, embrace my imperfection, foster trust, and love in my colleagues, rather than allow uncertainty to limit me, I embrace it as a possibility. Sometimes the things you want in life that scare you the most can turn out to be the most worthwhile. 

HOW though do we do this? I believe we must work to create trust, foster accountability, and support, and keep a hopeful outlook on the future informed by the realities of the present.

In her book Critical Hope: How to Grapple with Complexity, Lead with Purpose, and Cultivate Transformative Social Change (2022), Kari Grain emphasizes that while hope can have a transformative effect, it is insufficient in moments of despair or when facing deep injustice. She argues that hope must be accompanied by action; otherwise, it is naive at best and can lead individuals to relinquish their power and agency to challenge and change oppressive systems.

Collectively, with critical hope on our side, we can harness our power and agency to understand and then address issues facing students that are keeping them from realizing their goals, to disrupt systems of oppression, to close opportunity gaps, and to amplify the voices of activists whose identities are often under attack. It gives me great hope to work alongside colleagues on my campus to advocate for more opportunities, greater access, and more resources to do this work.

So, then the question remains: How do we cultivate this hope, especially in times of tragedy, fear, pain, and campus crisis? I hope to provide a worthwhile answer in the third and final part of this essay in the next issue of Developments.

review Part 1 | continue reading Part 3

ACPA Books: We Look Forward to Working with You

Season’s greetings! We have read several exciting book proposals throughout fall semester and have enjoyed collaborating with authors to bring ideas to fruition. We also have transitioned smoothly from Stylus to Routledge as a publisher. We remain ready and willing to work with you and provide guidance as you pursue your writing goals through the winter break period. Wherever you are in the process of proposing or writing a book, we are here to help. Please contact us at Jenny Small ([email protected]) and Kari Taylor ([email protected]).

Wishing you all a happy and healthy year,

Jenny Small and Kari Taylor

Message from the Editor

Happy January, Everyone.

Congratulations on making it through another term. First and foremost, thank you for all you do and the difference you make. Second, please protect some time for yourselves in the coming weeks. We each have a lot to recover from and reflect upon. Rest will help us be there for ourselves the rest of this academic year.

As you reflect and plan for the future, we are happy to provide you with resources in the form of the second annual case study issue of Developments. Again this year we have a great set of cases for onboarding, training, staff development, classroom activities, and so on. Thank you to each of our authors for these contributions. You will find these cases set the stage for important dialogue we need to be having right now.

Finally, if you have an idea for an article or a case study, please reach out and let us help you craft it for Developments. We are proud of the number of students and practitioners who publish here each semester. The frontline, student-facing perspectives are valuable and because of our rolling submissions and the fact that we publish quarterly, we get to highlight issues as they are unfolding. We are proud to share reflections, strategies, programmatic initiatives, and current affairs and topics from those of you who are doing the work in the moment. We certainly welcome scholarly and research articles as well. Again, if you have questions or ideas, please reach out.

We also welcome those of you interested in reviewing articles. We are excited to finally have rebuilt Developments so that we have articles in the pipeline for future issues. As the popularity of the publication grows, we have opportunities for reviewers to join our team. It is not a huge time commitment and it is incredibly rewarding to support authors through the process to publication.

Again, thanks for all you have done, are doing, and will do in the future. Here’s to a more peaceful and joyful future.

Michelle Boettcher

Editor, Developments

[email protected]

Case Studies Overview for Volume 20, Issue 4

To make this issue more useful, the cases are divided into categories, though the issues they raise cut across roles on campus, ethical issues, and other topics. In addition to the specifics of each case, we just center the people involved and their identities, spheres of influence, experiences, and needs. Reviewing each case will help you identify the cases that best suit your needs and interests.


  • Implementation Fidelity in First-Year Experience Programs by Emily Braught

Career Preparation and Transition

  • Career Confusion by MarySheila Ebri
  • Breaking Out of the Silo in Student Affairs by Alex Rosenberry, Amber Davies, and Kayla Hood

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Access, and Belonging

  • Working in the Crosshairs: Complex Decision-Making in Anti-DEI Political Times by Dustin Evatt
  • Supporting Students with Differing Beliefs by Chris King
  • Balancing Personal Values With Job Responsibilities by Audrey McKinney, Amber Davies and Kayla Hood
  • Just a Regular Student and His Soapbox by Kayla Steele Payne


  • Pressure from Above: Implementing Change Amid Resistance by Lisa Budrick
  • The Best for the Job by Marjorie Campbell

Student Identity, Experiences, and Needs

  • Because of How I Sound: Regional Dialects and Institutional Response by Jeremiah Farmer
  • Penny for your Thoughts: Student Emergency Funding in Action by Molly Callahan
  • Gossip and the Gray Area: Navigating Friendships and Boundaries between Students and Staff by Alexa Gonzalez

Student Organizations

  • When Community Isn’t Constructive by Erin Hassenstab
  • Revisiting the Basics by Joy Heinzman
  • Rookie Knight by Sara Jurkiewicz and Gavin Fredrichsen


  • I’m Putting My Supervisor Hat On by Katie Chaney and Mikayla Russ
  • Staff Support Needs by Amber Davies, Victoria Goetzinger, and Kayla Hood