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  • Spirituality in College Students’ Lives: Translating Research Into Practice ed. by Alyssa Bryant Rockenbach and Matthew J. Mayhew
  • Cynthia A. Wells
Spirituality in College Students’ Lives: Translating Research Into Practice. Alyssa Bryant Rockenbach and Matthew J. Mayhew (Editors). New York; NY: Routledge, 2013, 218 pages, $46.95 (softcover)

The history of higher education in the United States reveals a variety of positions from which religion, faith, and/or spirituality have been considered. Initially a central component of the required curriculum, spirituality and religion shifted over time to elective courses and cocurricular contexts (Marty, 1996; Reuben, 1996). Scholars have argued that renewed attention to religious concerns in higher education is more evident in our postsecular age (Jacobsen & Jacobsen, 2008). Recently, arguments have surfaced that higher education must consider faith and religion if it is to effectively prepare students for leadership in our interfaith global commons (Parks, 2011; Patel, 2012). These negotiations of spirituality’s place in the academy have been coupled with complex questions and shifts in its definition, including connections with and distinctions from constructs such as religion, faith, belief, meaning, and purpose. Spirituality in College Students’ Lives: Translating Research Into Practice, edited by Alyssa Bryant Rockenbach and Matthew J. Mayhew, is part of a generative new body of scholarship navigating the significance of spirituality in higher education.

Spirituality in College Students’ Lives extends the work of the Spirituality in Higher Education study at UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute (HERI). The Spirituality study, whose major findings were published in Cultivating the Spirit: How College Can Enhance Students’ Inner Lives (Astin, Astin, & Lindholm, 2011), developed research instruments on spirituality and generated an extensive data base focusing on the spiritual and religious lives of 14, 527 students attending [End Page 97] 136 diverse colleges. The editors and research studies reported in Spirituality in College Students’ Lives were among recipients of a grant aimed at encouraging researchers to use HERI’s data base to further examine students’ spiritual and religious development.

Spirituality in College Students’ Lives is organized into four parts: each part includes between two and four research-based chapters. Parts 2, 3, and 4 also include two essays, a researcher perspective and a practitioner viewpoint, reflecting on the chapters in that respective section. Part 1 consists of an Introduction and Methodological Overview. In chapter 1 editors Mayhew and Bryant Rockenbach delineate the ideological and methodological means by which volume contributors interpret “college student spirituality and the collegiate conditions, educational practices, and student experiences that influence its development” (p. 3). In chapter 2 Lindholm, Project Director for the Spirituality in Higher Education study, details the HERI study’s theoretical and methodological foundations, including its survey instrument, measures of spirituality (Spiritual Quest, Equanimity, Ethic of Caring, Charitable Involvement, Ecumenical Worldview), and measures of religiousness (Religious Commitment, Religious Engagement, Religious/Social Conservatism, Religious/Skepticism, Religious Struggle).

Part 2 focuses on how individual characteristics and group differences that students bring into college affect spirituality. In chapter 3 Bowman and Small focus on how the experience of being a religious minority or religious majority, as determined by the dynamic intersection of individual religious membership, institutional ethos, and societal context, impacts spiritual development and well-being. Gehrke’s examination of the impact of race and community involvement in chapter 4 finds that, while community-engagement activities impact spiritual development across racial/ethnic groups, there are significant differences in the types of activit ies that positively or negatively impact spiritual development among groups. Magolda’s researcher reflection addresses the risks of spirituality research, and Goodman’s practitioner reflection attends to how characteristics such as race/ethnicity and religious privilege should shape our educational practices.

Part 3 emphasizes particular college environments and their influence on spirituality outcomes. In chapter 5 Rine argues that Christian colleges should adopt the epistemological premise of “fallibilism” (p. 74), an orientation which both affirms an ultimate reality and embraces pluralism. Bryant Rockenbach and Mayhew examine in chapter 6 how institutional contexts influence ecumenical worldview development by nurturing a pluralistic orientation through particular educational practices. The researcher reflection from Hill, Edwards, and Hill raises provocative queries regarding the universality of operational definitions. McLennan’s practitioner reflection suggests programmatic strategies, such as interfaith...


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