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Understanding College Students’ Search for Meaning and Purpose. Jennifer A. Lindholm University of California, Los Angeles. Research Questions. What role does spirituality play in the lives of today’s college students? What is the relationship between religiousness and spirituality?

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jennifer a lindholm university of california los angeles

Understanding College Students’ Search

for Meaning and Purpose

Jennifer A. Lindholm

University of California, Los Angeles

research questions
Research Questions
  • What role does spirituality play in the lives of today’s college students?
  • What is the relationship between religiousness and spirituality?
  • How do students’ spiritual qualities change during the college years?
  • What are institutions doing that aids or inhibits students in their spiritual quest?

What is Spirituality?

  • Points to our interiors
  • Is qualitative and affective
  • Involves our values, beliefs, meaning, and purpose
  • Has to do with our connectedness to others and the world around us
  • Refers to those elements of our lives that are difficult to define or put into words (e.g., intuition, creativity, inspiration, and the sacred)

“Big Questions”

Who am I?

What are my values?

Do I have a mission or purpose in life?

Why am I in college?

What kind of person do I want to become?

What sort of world do I want to help create?


Assessing Spiritual and Religious Qualities

  • Guiding principles
  • The College Students’ Beliefs and Values (CSBV) Survey

Design of the Study

  • Spring 2003: Surveyed 3,700 juniors
  • Winter 2003: Interviewed 90 students
  • Fall 2004: Surveyed 112,000 freshmen
  • Spring 2007: Followed up 15,000 juniors
  • AY 2004-05: Surveyed 61,000 faculty
  • AY 2008-09: Interviewed 50 students and faculty
  • Summer 2010: Surveyed 750 campuses re. practices
indicators of spirituality
Indicators of Spirituality
  • Have an interest in spirituality 81%
  • Believe in the sacredness of life 84%
  • My spirituality is a source of joy 64%
  • Searching for meaning/purpose in life 76%
  • Discuss meaning of life with friends 74%
  • Spiritual experience: witnessing nature 62%
  • Spiritual experience: listening to music 58%
  • Seeking opportunities to grow spiritually 47%
indicators of religiousness
Indicators of Religiousness
  • Attended religious services 81%
  • Discussed religion/spirituality 80%
  • Believe in God 79%
  • Pray 69%
  • Religious beliefs: strength, support, guidance 68%
  • Follow religious teaching in everyday life 40%
expectations for college
Expectations for College
  • Encourage personal expression of spirituality 48%
  • Enhance self-understanding 69%
  • Prepare for responsible citizenship 67%
  • Develop personal values 67%
  • Provide for emotional development 63%
changes in religiousness during college
Changes in Religiousness During College
  • Increase inReligious Struggle
  • Decrease inReligious Engagement and Religious/Social Conservatism
  • No change inReligious Commitment orReligious Skepticism
how do we define spirituality
How Do We Define Spirituality?

Spirituality is a multifaceted quality that involves:

  • an active quest for answers to life’s “big questions”;
  • a global worldview that transcends ethnocentrism and egocentrism;
  • a sense of caring and compassion for others coupled with a lifestyle that includes service to others; and
  • a capacity to maintain one’s sense of calm and centeredness, especially in times of stress.
spiritual qualities showing increases during college
Spiritual Qualities Showing Increases During College
  • Spiritual Quest
  • Equanimity
  • Ethic of Caring
  • Ecumenical Worldview
faculty effects on students spiritual development
Faculty Effects on Students’ Spiritual Development
  • Direct encouragement
  • Reflective writing and journaling
  • Collaborative group projects
  • Contemplative practices in class
other positive influences on spiritual growth
Other Positive Influences on Spiritual Growth
  • Service learning
  • Interdisciplinary courses
  • Study abroad programs
  • Leadership training
  • Student organizations
  • Interracial interaction
  • Meditation/contemplation
  • Charitable giving
negative influences on spiritual growth
Negative Influences on Spiritual Growth
  • Watching television
  • Playing video games
effects of major on spiritual development
Effects of Major on Spiritual Development
  • POSITIVE: fine arts, health professions, biological sciences, social sciences
  • NEGATIVE: engineering, mathematics, physical science, other technical fields

Growth in Spiritual QualitiesPromotes:

  • Academic achievement (GPA)
  • Aspirations for advanced degrees
  • Psychological well-being
  • Leadership self-concept
  • Self-perceived ability to get along with persons
  • from other races and cultures
  • Commitment to promoting racial understanding
  • Satisfaction with college

Considering Possibilities

  • Offering opportunities for spiritual reflection and discussion during student orientation and other programming initiatives
  • Establishing places for reflection and quiet dialogue on campus
  • Incorporating discussions of spirituality in living and learning communities and residence halls
  • Developing guiding principles to facilitate conversations on spirituality
  • Creating professional development programs to prepare faculty, staff, and peer leaders to participate in and facilitate discussions on spiritual issues

For More Details, Please Visit Our Project Website