Spiritual and Religious Life

Purpose

The purpose of Spiritual and Religious Life is to support and advance the exploration and expression of spiritually, religious life, faith-traditions, values and philosophies of life within the context of higher education. The Spiritual and Religious Life program seeks to provide access to activities and programs that enable interested students to pursue full spiritual growth and development and to foster a campus atmosphere in which interested members of the campus community may freely express their religion, spirituality, and faith.

Religious centers and religious student organizations provide opportunities for students to be centered in a caring community, explore the connections between faith-traditions and real world complexities, make a difference in the lives of others through service work, and grow in a sense of their own abilities and self-awareness. Involvement activities for many different faith-traditions and philosophies can be found on campus and in the Greater Milwaukee Area.

www.religiousctrs.uwm.edu

If you wish to provide your contact information to one or more of the spiritual and religious communities, you may do so at:

uwm.edu/srcstudentinfo

Program Goals

  • Provide students with more opportunities to connect with their “inner selves.” This will facilitate growth in their academic and leadership skills, contribute to their psychological well-being, and enhance their satisfaction with college (adapted from “Attending to Students’ Inner Lives: A Call to Higher Education, April 2011)
  • Focus on student spiritual development through involvement and participation in high impact activities such as interfaith dialogue, charitable involvement and reflection/meditation exercises
  • Contribute to the Essential Learning Outcomes (LEAP) in: Knowledge of Human Cultures and the Physical and Natural World; Intercultural knowledge and competence; Ethical reasoning and action; engagement with big questions, both contemporary and enduring
  • The goals of religious or spiritual programs or services should provide opportunities for interested students to:
    • Articulate a personal philosophy of life
    • Acquire skills and knowledge to address issues of values, ethics and morality
    • Examine the interaction of faith, intellectual inquiry, and social responsibility as bases for finding and affirming meaning and satisfaction in life
    • Participate in dialogue between and among representatives of the religious and/or spiritual and the secular
    • Participate with others in the expression of their faith(s)

Research

Foundational research regarding the spiritual quest of students in higher education was conducted by Alexander W. Astin, Helen S. Astin, and Jennifer A. Lindholm between 2004 and 2007. “The Spiritual Life of College Students: A National Study of College Students’ Search for Meaning and Purpose” was published by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA and is the basis for the book “Cultivating the Spirit: How College Can Enhance Students’ Inner Lives” (Astin, Astin & Lindhom, 2011).

This research has found a positive relationship between spiritual growth and the traditional benchmarks for student success in higher education. The research defined five spiritual qualities:

  • Spiritual Quest reflects the degree to which the student is actively seeking to become a more self-aware and enlightened person and to find answers to life’s mysteries and “big questions.”
  • Equanimity measures the extent to which the student is able to find meaning in times of hardship, feels at peace, sees each day as a gift, and feels good about the direction of her life.
  • Ethic of Caring reflects the student’s commitment to values such as helping others in difficulty, reducing pain and suffering in the world, and promoting racial understanding.
  • Charitable Involvement includes activities such as participating in community service, donating money to charity, and helping friends with personal problems.
  • Ecumenical Worldview indicates the extent to which the student is interested in different religious traditions, seeks to understand other countries and cultures, feels a strong connection to all humanity, and believes that all life is interconnected.

Spirituality, as defined by these measures, is a multifaceted quality involving an active quest for answers to life’s “big questions” (Spiritual Quest), a global worldview that transcends ethnocentrism and egocentrism (Ecumenical Worldview), a sense of caring and compassion for others (Ethic of Caring) coupled with a lifestyle that includes service to others (Charitable Involvement), and a capacity to maintain one’s sense of calm and centeredness, especially in times of stress (Equanimity).

The study’s major findings include the following:

  • Although Religious Engagement and Religious/social Conservatism decline somewhat during college, students’ spiritual qualities grow substantially.
  • Students show the greatest spiritual growth during college if they are actively engaged in “inner work” through self-reflection, contemplation, or meditation. Meditation and self-reflection also strengthen Religious Commitment and Religious Engagement.
  • Most forms of Charitable Involvement during college-community service work, helping friends with personal problems, donating money to charity promote the development of the other four spiritual qualities.
  • Exposing students to diverse people, cultures, and ideas through study abroad, interracial interaction, interdisciplinary coursework, service learning and other forms of civic engagement contribute to spiritual growth.
  • Growth in spiritual qualities such as Equanimity, Ethic of Caring, and Ecumenical Worldview enhances students’ academic achievement and personal development. Similar effects were not associated with growth in religious qualities.
  • Providing students with more opportunities to connect with their “inner selves” thus facilitates growth in their academic and leadership skills, contributes to their psychological well-being, and enhances their satisfaction with college.

Research summary remarks taken from “Attending to Students’ Inner Lives: A Call to Higher Education, April 2011