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  • Making Meaning: Embracing Spirituality, Faith, Religion, and Life Purpose in Student Affairs ed. by Jenny L. Small
  • José-Luis Riera
Making Meaning: Embracing Spirituality, Faith, Religion, and Life Purpose in Student Affairs Jenny L. Small (editor) Sterling, VA: Stylus/American College Personnel Association, 2015, 208 pages, $29.95

Making Meaning: Embracing Spirituality, Faith, Religion, and Life Purpose in Student Affairs is a new resource for those interested in learning more about the research and practice of spirituality, faith, religion, and life purpose within student affairs. As the work of promoting religious and secular pluralism on college campuses proliferates and the work of diversity and inclusion increasingly involves engaging these identities, Making Meaning is poised to become a valuable resource. This well-written, well-organized, and accessible text goes beyond a survey text about the literature to date; instead the diverse collection of authors go further and provide clear vision for how student affairs educators can engage in deeper thought and develop principles of practice related to this burgeoning area of scholarship and practice. The authors imagine ways in which the research agenda can expand, the role of professional associations in advancing this work ought to grow, and propose new strategies for practitioners to further conversations about spirituality, faith, religion, and life purpose on the college campus.

Chapter 1, “Introduction,” is written by the book’s editor, Jenny L. Small, and provides broad context for how the literature and practice has evolved in the last 10 to 15 years as it relates to spirituality, faith, religion, and life purpose. A unique element is that some of the contributing authors weave their own personal stories throughout the chapters to illustrate how their own spiritual, faith, and meaning making journeys have come to bear on their careers as student affairs educators, scholars, and practitioners. Small introduces this approach to writing in the first chapter, illustrating her journey as a student within higher education and subsequently a practitioner and scholar. The book is then divided in three parts: Research and Theories, Professional Associations, and Practice.

Part 1, “Research and Theories,” contains three chapters. In chapter 2, Sam Siner, begins to uncover how the conversation about spirituality, faith, religion, and life purpose developed to where it is today within student affairs. Siner provides a retrospective of theories beginning with Fowler’s famed 1981 theory, which proposed stages of faith development and continues to review theories as recent as those published in 2011. Towards the end of the chapter, Siner discusses what’s next for the evolution of spiritual and faith development theories, noting that we are still moving from infancy to adolescence in regard to the state of research on this topic and suggests several new directions for more specific research in this next decade.

In chapter 3, “A Historical and Research Overview of Religious/Worldview Identification in Higher Education,” Vivienne Felix and Nicholas A. Bowman examine a distinct set of the literature related to what they call “religious/worldview identification.” In this chapter, Felix and Bowman survey the literature that discusses students’ identity with a particular religious tradition or no religious tradition. They provide a historical context of higher education, discussing the role of religion and the evolution of discrimination of students identifying within minority religions. The authors then discuss campus climate related to spirituality and religion and conclude the chapter with a discussion about college student outcomes associated with religious/worldview identification. [End Page 115]

In chapter 4, “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding? Or, Why Higher Education Is Finally Talking About Faith, Belief, Meaning, and Purpose,” Tricia A. Seifert concludes part 1 by describing the “pendulum shift” in higher education, with roots in religiously motivated education to secular-grounded education in the 20th century. Seifert weaves her personal narrative through the chapter and concludes with questioning whether the pendulum will remain in a place where pluralism is valued and students will find the space to ask life’s biggest questions. She uses this questioning as a springboard to posit how the research agenda, on the broadest level, could develop to provide more answers to the issues that surround faith, belief, meaning, and life purpose.

Part 2 consists...


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pp. 115-117
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