- The Quest for Meaning and Wholeness: Spiritual and Religious Connections in the Lives of College Faculty by Jennifer A. Lindholm
Jennifer A. Lindholm
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2014, 261 pages, $40.00 (hardcover)
Over the past decade and a half, the study of spirituality in higher education has grown notably. Critical in these efforts was research conducted by the Spirituality and Higher Education Project, housed at the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute. Along with Alexander Astin and Helen Astin, Jennifer Lindholm wrote Cultivating the Spirit: How Colleges Can Enhance Students’ Inner Lives (2010), which drew from the College Students’ Beliefs and Values Survey (CSBV). In The Quest for Meaning and Wholeness: Spiritual and Religious Connections in the Lives of College Faculty, Lindholm (2014) turns her attention to how faculty handle spirituality and religion, drawing on data from the 2012 Faculty Beliefs and Values Survey.
Chapter 1 provides an overview of research on spirituality and religion in higher education, much of which will be familiar to readers of the broader literature on college student spirituality. Lindholm explains her reason for focusing on faculty, noting the widespread fragmentation that many faculty experience between their values and their day-to-day work. She introduces the data on which the book is based and describes how the survey constructs (e.g., equanimity, spiritual quest, ecumenical worldview) were developed. The following chapters are organized around one or more of the constructs, which are similar to the constructs that were used in the CSBV for college students. Each subsequent chapter also uses quotations from interviews conducted with faculty to complement the quantitative data, providing a rich, mixed-method exploration of the topic.
Chapter 2 addresses spirituality and religiosity among faculty, providing breakdowns for faculty responses among sex, race, sexual orientation, age, marital status, children, and political views. Lindholm takes readers through the various combinations of faculty who identify as spiritual but not religious, spiritual and religious, not religious or spiritual, and religious but not spiritual. The second part of Chapter 2 pays special attention to how religious and spiritual identification vary by academic discipline.
Chapter 3 addresses spiritual quest, a measure that “reflects an engagement in the search for meaning and purpose in life” (p. 69). Some of the items in the measure include the importance that faculty place on priorities such as “attaining inner harmony,” “developing a meaningful philosophy of life,” and “attaining wisdom” (p. 72). Besides discussing the basic dimensions of how spiritual quest differs by various sub-groups and by faculty’s level of religiosity or spirituality, Lindholm addresses the interconnections between [End Page 494] questing and faculty reflections on what makes academic work meaningful. She also addresses how spiritual quest varies by discipline and institutional type. She notes challenges to finding meaning within work given the busyness and pressures of faculty life, which her respondents discussed with much candor. In one telling quote, a faculty respondent muses: “My own pride, vanity, ego—whatever you want to call it—has continually asserted itself into my work and often almost disabled my ability to act with humility and genuine curiosity about [my work]—and, most mysteriously, other persons” (p. 82).
Chapter 4 discusses three constructs that explore “externally directed aspects of individuals’ spirituality” (p. 85): ethic of caring, ecumenical worldview, and charitable involvement. All three items reflect a sense of connectedness to others, be it attitudinal or behavioral. Besides discussing each item in detail, Lindholm also gives space to discussing the challenges to caring and connectedness in faculty life. Once again, participants speak frankly: “The academy can be a dark place. Academics can be self-serving narcissists. This is depressing, and depression is a bad state of mind for someone seeking spiritual joy or solace” (p. 108).
In chapter 5, Lindholm shifts towards measures of religiousness, documenting faculty’s religious affiliations and measures such as religious commitment, religious engagement, religious skepticism, and religious struggle. Faculty quotations provide rich insight into the level of freedom that they feel in identifying as religious and perceptions of discrimination related to spirituality and/or religion. The...