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Read the essays in the SSRC Forum on The Religious Engagements of American Undergraduates

Annotated Bibliography
Published on: May 29, 2007

Astin, A. W. 1977. Four Critical Years: Effects of College on Beliefs, Attitudes, and Knowledge. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

            In his first book and major study of college students, Astin looks at changes in attitudes, beliefs, self-concept, behavior, academic achievement, the career path, and college satisfaction. Questions explored about religion include how religious affiliation changes or is weakened during college, how religious attendance is impacted, what aspects of the college experience contribute to these changes, and how student experiences and changes are different at secular, Catholic, and Protestant institutions. Astin notes differences by gender, race, and academic ability. The book concludes with suggestions for policy makers and educational institutions in light of this study’s results.

Astin, A. W. 1993. What Matters in College?: Four Critical Years Revisited. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

            This is an updated and revamped version of Astin’s important 1977 book and study, Four Critical Years, and helps readers to understand more about “how undergraduate students are affected by their college experiences.” It details “how the environmental characteristics and the experiences of involvement” affect political orientation, career development, personality, beliefs, values, various behaviors, academic variables, and satisfaction with college. The effects of the religious composition of the student body (an environmental characteristic) and the religious attendance of students (an involvement variable) on many of the above variables are measured and reported. Astin’s book should be very helpful to student affairs personnel or faculty as well as to prospective students and parents looking for a particular kind of college experience.

Astin, A. W. 1993. “An Empirical Typology of College Students.” Journal of College Student Development 34(1): 36-46.

            Can college students be categorized and their college experiences predicted? Astin attempts this task and believes to have found six basic, “ideal” types. Of course, few students will fit perfectly into these categories, but many are likely to resemble one type more than the others. Based on freshman surveys from 1971 and 1986, the article also reveals that some of these “types”—specifically, students who enjoy drinking, partying, and staying up late (“hedonistic”) and students who change colleges or areas of study during their education (“the uncommitted”)—tend to go to religious services less frequently than others. Other types Astin mentions include scholars, activists, and artists. This article may be especially useful to university administrators.

Bell, R. and H. Wechsler, et al. 1997. “Correlates of College Student Marijuana Use: Results of a U.S. National Survey.” Addiction 92(5): 571-581.

            The authors examine the results of a national survey to discover whether certain college activities or personal characteristics contributed to or prevented students’ use of marijuana, which has obvious effects on their educational experience. The importance of religion to a student is tested, as well as college size, college culture, the importance of community service, engaging in other risky behaviors, and time spent studying, with friends, and partying. Although the impact of religion is weaker than the other activities, its importance to student drug use is still considered. The article also includes information about the prevalence of drug use on campus, the “social nature” of this behavior during the college years, and concerns about its implications for public health.

Benson, P. L., M. J. Donahue, and J. A. Erickson. 1989. “Adolescence and Religion: A Review of the Literature from 1970 to 1986.” Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion 1: 53-181.

            Benson et al. examine the research conducted between 1970 and 1986 on the religiousness of young people aged 10-18, an age range spanning early adolescence (5th to 8th grade) and mid-adolescence (9th to 12th grade). The authors divide the literature into four sections: “a national profile of adolescent religiousness, cognitive processes in adolescent religious development, psychosocial factors in religious development, and the relationship of adolescent religiousness to social-personality variables.” Important findings include a general consensus in national profiles that religiousness among adolescents is declining, in part due to rejection of the concrete images of childhood. Despite the breadth of areas covered in the existing research, the authors cite a number of methodological problems: studies that lack a firm grounding in theory; a general dearth of longitudinal studies; a tendency in the literature to overlook humanitarian functions of religion such as prejudice, empathy, and volunteerism; and, most notably, a failure to explore links between religiousness and moral development.

Blaine, B. and J. Crocker. 1995. “Religiousness, Race, and Psychological Well-Being—Exploring Social-Psychological Mediators.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 21:1031-1041.

            The authors survey 144 college students to learn more about the relationship between religiosity and psychological wellbeing and the degree to which racial and religious variables matter. Findings suggest that despite similarity of religious belief, the relationship of personal religion to psychological health is stronger among African American students.

Bramadat, P. A. 2000. The Church on the World’s Turf: An Evangelical Christian Group at a Secular University. New York: Oxford University Press.

            This book summarizes Bramadat’s findings based on his fieldwork with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter (IVCF) of McMaster University in Ontario, the largest such chapter in Canada. The IVCF has a membership of more than two hundred students on a campus of fourteen thousand. Bramadat argues that these evangelical students adopt different strategies for dealing with the “permeable membrane” between the evangelical world and the rest of McMaster campus, and the non-Christian world more generally. One strategy is a form of resistance. Using a “fortress strategy,” evangelicals seek to protect themselves from “threatening elements of the secular educational ethos, such as relativism, evolution, promiscuity, and alcohol consumption.” Another strategy is meant to link the evangelical and non-Christian worlds. Here, evangelicals might articulate their evangelical convictions and beliefs in a classroom discussion, though they often do so in a cautious manner. Ultimately, Bramadat finds that many of the evangelical students are “content to ‘live with the tension’ of being children of God in a godless institution.”

Braskamp, L. A. Forthcoming. “The Religious and Spiritual Journey of College Students.” In The American University in a Postsecular Age: Religion and Higher Education, edited by D. Jacobsen and R. H. Jacobsen. New York: Oxford University Press.

            This chapter provides a useful overview of research on college student spirituality. Identifying three types of students—“millenials,” “post-modern,” and “missionary,”—Braskamp argues that there is no single type of college student spirituality. He surveys prior research about the religious and spiritual journey of college students through the university, year by year, and then identifies four important factors that impact these journeys: culture, curriculum, co-curriculum, and communities. Braskamp concludes that students “experiment with a variety of avenues and approaches, and they tend to be more consumer-oriented, selecting from existing forms of worship and spirituality and adapting it to meet their unique needs and life style.” The chapter concludes with a consideration of how these findings should influence student affairs theory, as well as policy and practice in the academy.

Braskamp, L. A. and L. Trautvetter, et al. 2006. Putting Students First: How to Develop Students Purposefully. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

            This book addresses three ways that ten faith-based colleges and universities profess to effectively cultivate the holistic development of their students. The first is the intentionality of colleges: how they guide and support students, and what they believe is a desirable end for students. The second is how colleges recognize and support the student’s own purpose and mission in life. The third is the role that faculty and other adults on campus play in the holistic development of students. Braskamp et al. find that these ten institutions seek to prepare their students to be active members of society, and have leaders who work tirelessly to stay “on message”—capitalizing on all opportunities to communicate the institutional mission to students. The authors provide recommendations for other colleges wishing to improve holistic student development on their campuses, including: fostering a community that both challenges and supports its all of its members; rewarding faculty and staff for their contributions to the college community; and developing a community that promotes open inquiry for all of its members.

Bryant, A. N. 2004. “Campus Religious Communities and the College Student Experience.” Ph.D. diss., University of California, Los Angeles.

            Participation in religious communities is central to the lives of many college students across the United States. Few studies, however, provide detailed information about the content of student beliefs, or on the impacts—academic, personal, and religious—of these groups on their members over time. Using data generated from first-year student responses to two datasets—the Fall 2000 Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) Freshman Survey and the Spring 2001 Your First College Year (YFCY) Survey—Alyssa N. Bryant provides a more robust picture of participation in religious campus subcultures in students’ first year of college. Some of Bryant’s findings challenge preconceived notions of religious college students: for example, that involvement in a religious organization prevents cultural awareness. The author complements her quantitative findings with an in-depth case study of an evangelical student group on the campus of a large university. She finds that “many students sought a self-authored faith distinct from their parents’” and, despite conservative theological views and a conservative belief in gender roles (a prevailing belief in essential gender roles and an evangelical community defined by masculine norms), evangelical students display a diverse range of political attitudes.

Bryant, A. N. 2005. “Evangelicals on Campus: An Exploration of Culture, Faith, and College Life.” Religion and Education 32, 1-30.

            This study continues Bryant’s work on evangelical communities on college campuses, which she first explored in her 2004 dissertation (see Bryant 2004). Bryant observed and interviewed members of Sharing the Faith Fellowship (a pseudonym), a conservative evangelical group on the campus of a large university. Her goals were to define the important cultural characteristics of the group; to define the group’s “goals, norms, beliefs, values, truth claims, personalities, and conflicts”; and to understand how “group members perceive and react to the norms, beliefs, values, and truth claims of the university…and other faith traditions represented on campus.” Her analysis suggests that political engagement is a tenuous and conflicting issue for evangelical students. Many of the students she interviewed, for example, possessed both liberal and conservative views simultaneously. While she found consensus among student views on moral conduct (particularly in the areas of drinking, sex, abortion) that was consistent with traditional evangelicalism, some respondents had non-traditional feelings toward the gay and lesbian community. Finally, Bryant’s observations support the idea that as institutions themselves pay less attention to cultivating moral virtue among their students, individual religious groups have assumed the responsibility of teaching their members character formation.

Bryant, A. N. 2006. “Assessing the Gender Climate of an Evangelical Student Subculture in the United States.” Gender and Education 18(6): 613-634.

            Bryant explores the gendered experiences of student members of a college evangelical community. Her study builds on her dissertation findings (see Bryant 2004) that college evangelicals possess conservative beliefs in gender roles, and that evangelical communities are defined by masculine norms. Bryant culled her data from observations at weekly meetings of the “Sharing the Faith Fellowship” student group (see Bryant 2005 for a more in-depth discussion of this group), as well as other events, and supplemented these observations with 22 student interviews. Bryant finds that “masculine assumptions ingrained in leadership, languages, and images of God” and beliefs in essential gender differences, structure “leadership, modesty, and attitudes toward marriage and dating.” These gender-related attitudes support those commonly expressed by members of the wider evangelical community. Bryant concludes with a discussion of the potential negative consequences of beliefs in traditional gender roles.

Bryant, A. N. 2006. “Exploring Religious Pluralism in Higher Education: Non-Majority Religious Perspectives among Entering First-Year College Students.” Religion and Education 33, 1-25.

            A growing number of today’s college students do not participate in mainstream Christian religion but claim another religious tradition. What do these students—Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Unitarian Universalists, and the nonreligious—believe about life, the sacred, and other big questions, and how do they practice their faith? Using data from a Higher Education Research Institute study, Bryant explores the great diversity in spiritual beliefs among these students. “Without question,” she writes, “members of non-majority religions contribute not merely one ‘other’ voice to the religious discourse in the U.S., but a collection of voices, each expressing its own unique perspectives, principles, and foundational ideologies and values.” The report includes an analysis of minority religion students’ political beliefs and personal ethics as well as the stability of their beliefs.

Bryant, A. N. and J. Y. Choi, et al. 2003. “Understanding the Religious and Spiritual Dimensions of Students’ Lives in the First Year of College.” Journal of College Student Development 44(6): 723-745.

            How are students changed, religiously and spiritually, by their freshman year of college? The authors look to a study that asks students a variety of questions about their religious lives at the beginning of the first college year and again at the end. The authors discuss “what religious and spiritual mean in the context of the first year of college,” and find that many students decrease participation in traditional religious activities like prayer, meditation, and going to services. Overall, however, students say that they are more committed to “integrating spirituality into their lives” at the end of the first year. The authors also note differences that result from how students spend their free time during the year and what type of college—secular or faith-based—they attend.

Cawthon, T. W. and C. Jones. 2004. “A Description of Tradition and Contemporary Campus Ministries.” College Student Affairs Journal 23(2): 158-172.

            His article provides an introduction to campus ministries. It includes brief historical and descriptive overviews of some of the most prominent “traditional” denominational ministries (Baptist Student Union, Hillel, Newman Clubs, etc.) and “contemporary” collegiate fellowships (InterVarsity, Navigators, etc.). Cawthon and Jones argue that the two types of ministries differ in the types of religious experiences they provide to students. Traditional ministries provide denominationally specific theological doctrine; multi-generational worship communities; smaller settings; and ordained leadership. Contemporary ministries, by contrast, provide eclectic and nondenominational worship styles; worship with members of their peer group; high-energy, large-group settings; and lay leadership.

Cherry, C. and B. A. DeBerg, et al. 2001. Religion on Campus: What Religion Really Means to Today’s Undergraduates. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press.

            In this book, the authors make extended visits to four very different college campuses to learn more about religious beliefs and practices on campus. The authors find many similarities in religious expression as well as some unique characteristics at each institution. Based on their research, the authors conclude that religion and spirituality are alive and well on college campuses, regardless of type, although religious expression may be more optional and pluralistic for today’s students than it was in the past.

Chickering, A. W. and J. C. Dalton, et al. 2005. Encouraging Authenticity and Spirituality in Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

            This book is a resource for students, faculty, and administrators looking for strategies to integrate spirituality into college life. Part I includes essays that cover the history of spirituality in higher education, outlining the major theories (including Karen Armstrong’s view of religion and spirituality and Wayne Teasdale’s understanding of spirituality) that shape the authors’ recommendations in the rest of the book. Part II focuses on effective policies for integrating spirituality into the college curriculum, student affairs, and community partnerships. Part III features essays that offer recommendations for campus leaders and professional development. Throughout the authors provide real-life examples of successful practices and programs on campuses across the country. The appendices include useful materials such as model course syllabi and a policy statement from the University of Missouri, Columbia.

Clydesdale, T. 2007. The First Year Out: Understanding American Teens after High School. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

            Clydesdale gives readers an inside, in-depth look at contemporary teenagers, based on first-hand observations and interviews of 50 teens during their senior year of high school and the year following. Teens’ religious identities are an important theme. The author identifies and compares three levels of religiosity among his respondents: strongly religious, semi-religious, and non-religious (including a few who are described as anti-religious). Contrary to some accounts, Clydesdale argues that semi-religious teens, who comprise the majority of American teenagers, stow religious identities in a conceptual “lockbox” until after graduation. During the first year out, the true quest for most is to “successfully navigate interpersonal relationships and manage everyday life,” rather than to develop spiritually or question their religious background.

Constantine, M. G. and M. L. Miville, et al. 2006. “Religion, Spirituality, and Career Development in African American College Students: A Qualitative Inquiry.” Career Development Quarterly 54(3): 227-241.

            The authors conduct a very small, focused study of twelve students to discover how religion and spirituality affect African American students’ ability to cope with stress and plan for a post-college career path. Building on their finding that most respondents define themselves as “spiritual, but not religious,” the authors attempt to learn more about how students understand religiosity and spirituality. They find that when considering possible careers, many students come to the task with a belief that there is a divinely ordained plan for their lives.

Darnell, A. and D. E. Sherkat. 1997. “The Impact of Protestant Fundamentalism on Educational Attainment.” American Sociological Review 62(2): 306-315.

            Darnell and Sherkat investigate whether a specific religious background, Protestant fundamentalism, affects the educational attainment of children. This segment of Christianity, whose authorities often believe that no schooling at all is preferable to secular schooling, and see “education as valueless unless it is religious in content and orientation,” is unlikely to encourage its youth to pursue secular education. Bible colleges are an alternative, yet are too expensive for many families. Therefore, the authors hypothesize that fundamentalist teenagers may not go on to earn college or graduate degrees as often as their peers from non-fundamentalist religious traditions. They test their hypothesis with data from a study that surveyed young adults three times over the course of 17 years, beginning when they were high schools seniors, and conclude that fundamentalist background does in fact hinder educational achievement.

Dillon, M. 1996. “The Persistence of Religious Identity among College Catholics.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 35(2): 165-170.

            Since Vatican II, more and more American Catholics have adopted a profile of “doctrinal selectivity,” rejecting aspects of the Church’s moral and socio-political teachings while embracing the Church’s sacramental and communal tradition. In this paper, Dillon explores whether the religious identities of Catholic students at an elite, non-denominational college reflect this larger pattern. The author bases her conclusions on results of a sample of 76 completed mail surveys. She finds that frequency of church attendance was a strong predictor of the respondents’ views on abortion, pre-marital sex, and institutionalized religion, with the “less frequent attenders” being more tolerant of pro-choice, sex before marriage, and a more expansive definition of spirituality that is not necessarily tied to religious organization. Further, “women respondents did not show a different orientation on values… than their male counterparts.”

Ecklund, E. and C. Scheitle. 2005. “Religious Differences between Natural and Social Scientists: Preliminary Results from a Study of ‘Religion Among Academic Scientists’ (RAAS).” Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

            In this working paper, Ecklund and Scheitle present preliminary findings from their survey of science faculty attitudes toward religion. Based on a survey of 1,646 faculty members at elite research institutions, they find that “those in the academy appear not to be as irreligious as some academic and popular commentators would like to think.” Although they find that 67% of natural scientists and 62% of social scientists are either atheist or agnostic, they further find that two-thirds of both types of scientists consider themselves to be spiritual. The authors conclude that “rather than leaving religion altogether, many academics have instead pieced together a personal spirituality. For some this means drawing on several different traditions in a syncretic fashion to create a purpose and meaning for life outside the self and outside pragmatic day-to-day activity.”

Edwards, M. U. 2006. A Professor’s Guide to Communities, Conflicts, and Promising

Conversations. New York: Palgrave.

            This book is a resource for faculty who are considering the place of religion in the academy and on college campuses. To minimize the risks that accompany any discussion on the issue of religious perspectives on scholarship and teaching, Edwards adopts a “conversational” approach, which not only recommends that scholars engage the issue through conversations with colleagues, but also suggests that the foremost goal should be deepened understanding rather than agreement or resolution. The book is divided into four parts. In Part I the author asks readers to consider stories about the negative consequences of religion that circulate on campuses and inside departments. Part II explores how disciplines socialize their faculty and the ways in which this process of socialization mirrors traditional religious formation. Part III asks scholars to reflect on their own personal histories and to consider why they have dedicated their lives to learning and teaching, and suggests that this self-reflection may reveal deep convictions underlying their lives as professionals. Finally, Part IV considers the legitimacy of scholarly judgment that is shaped by religious communities, as well as the unexpected ways that “academic freedom” bears on religious conviction.

Flory, R. W. and D. E. Miller, eds. 2000. Gen X Religion. New York: Routledge.

            This book offers a colorful picture of the religious engagements of “Generation X” at the turn of the millennium. The book is notable for the wide array of unusual devotional practices it unearths—sacred tattooing, Gothic clubs, megachurches, rockabilly bands, surf shops, and so forth. Each chapter is essentially an extended ethnography of the beliefs and practices of a particular religious subgroup. The contributors describe Generation X as less likely to believe that “the truth” exists, more likely to produce than to consume religion, more focused on images and experiences than words, and engaged in a quest for community and authenticity. While the book as a whole is not specifically about college students, Sharon Kim’s chapter on Korean campus ministries is an insightful portrait of collegiate evangelical life in the late 1990s.

Good, J. L. and C. Cartwright. 1998. “Development of Moral Judgment among Undergraduate University Students.” College Student Journal 32(2): 270-276.

            The authors assess the development of “moral” judgment by giving students a survey containing several ethical dilemmas. To compare different college environments, students are drawn from one public state university, one Bible College, and one Christian liberal arts university. The study suggests that the greatest moral development of students takes place during freshman and sophomore years but continues during the last two years of college. However, “the students attending the state and Christian liberal arts universities showed greater gains in principled thinking than their counterparts attending a Bible university.”

Hammond, P. E. and J. D. Hunter. 1984. “On Maintaining Plausibility: The Worldview of Evangelical College Students.” Journal for the Social Scientific Study of Religion 23: 221-238.

            Hammond and Hunter analyze how the social setting of colleges (public, private, sectarian, non-sectarian) impacts the evangelical worldviews of their students, with the aim of addressing the larger issue of how evangelicalism can be maintained in a society that is becoming increasingly secular. Using responses to a questionnaire administered at nine evangelical institutions, the authors create an “Index of evangelical Beliefs,” a tool for measuring the strength of evangelicalism of students. The authors also categorize the colleges by degree of insularity – the degree to which the schools guard against secular influences. They find that a higher percentage of students who score high on the index (i.e. are strong evangelicals) are found at the highly insulated institutions, suggesting that evangelical students are attracted to traditionally evangelical institutions (and ones with a large population of evangelical students). The authors find only modest support for the attrition hypothesis (that the strength of students’ evangelicalism declines during the college years).

Hartley, H. V., III. 2004. “How College Affects Students’ Religious Faith and Practice: A Review of Research.” College Student Affairs Journal 23(2): 111-129.

            This article reviews the literature published over a fifteen-year period (1989 to 2004) that addresses the effect of college attendance on students’ religious faith and practice. Hartley charts the findings of this research on issues such as how college changes students, how religiosity is changed, how it impacts well-being, and how students today compare in religiosity to students of the past. He also notes certain limitations of the studies done thus far that could be corrected in future research.

Harvard University Institute of Politics. 2005. Redefining Political Attitudes and Activism: A Poll by Harvard’s Institute of Politics. Cambridge: Harvard University Institute of Politics. (Available online at:

            This survey of 1,200 college students broadly surveys political attitudes across the country, with a focus on attitudes toward religion and morality in politics. The study provides a general denominational overview of college students, and finds that 70% say that religion plays an important role in their lives. The report concludes that students perceive a broad array of political issues as “moral issues,” and argues that “religious centrists”—who comprise 25% of college students—will be a crucial swing vote in future elections.

Higher Education Research Institute. 2004. The Spiritual Life of College Students: A National Study of College Students’ Search for Meaning and Purpose (Full Report). Los Angeles: Higher Education Research Institute at University of California, Los Angeles.

            This report provides a summary of early findings from a comprehensive, multi-year study by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI). Over 112,000 first-year students at 236 colleges and universities were surveyed in the late summer and early fall of 2004, with a follow-up survey administered to those students in spring 2007. HERI’s study differs from other research on religion and higher education in its focus on the inner development of students: “the sphere of values and beliefs, emotional maturity, spirituality, and self-understanding.” Based on their findings, the researchers developed three measures of spirituality, five measures of religiousness, and four other dimensions related to spirituality and religiousness. They find that a majority of college students report high levels of spirituality, with three-fourths saying that they are “searching for purpose/meaning in life,” while 80% attended religious services in the past year. Spirituality and religiousness correspond with various behaviors: they relate generally to physical well-being (for example, highly religious and highly spiritual students are less likely to drink and smoke), and the researchers also find that there is a divide between students of different levels of spirituality and religious engagement on political views and affiliations (for example, conservatives far outnumber liberals among those students who identify as being highly religious).

Higher Education Research Institute. 2006. Spirituality and the Professoriate: A National Study of Faculty Beliefs, Attitudes, and Behaviors. Los Angeles: Higher Education Research Institute at University of California, Los Angeles.

            While recent studies have focused on the religious engagements of college undergraduates, less attention has been paid to the religious engagements of their professors. What do college instructors believe and how do those beliefs impact their teaching? Researchers at the Higher Education Research Institute address this question and others in a comprehensive, multi-year study of Spirituality in Higher Education. The study’s early findings indicate that while “students are very interested in spiritual and religious matters and have high expectations for the role their institutions will play in their emotional and spiritual development,” nearly one-half are unhappy with how their college has provided “opportunities for religious/spiritual reflection.” (These findings and others are summarized in a 2004 HERI report, “The Spiritual Life of College Students: A National Study of College Students’ Search for Meaning and Purpose.”) Surveys were administered to over 40,000 faculty members nationwide. The data reveals many complexities. The researchers find that while over 80% of faculty consider themselves spiritual persons, less than one-third believe that “colleges should be concerned with developing students’ spiritual development.” Meanwhile, more than one-half of the faculty disagree with the statement that “the spiritual dimension of professors’ lives has no place in the academy.”

Hoge, D. R. 1974. Commitment on Campus: Changes in Religion and Values Over Five Decades. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.

            In this book, Hoge presents the findings from a number of studies of religious beliefs and practices conducted among college students between 1966 and 1968. These studies replicate studies conducted between 1920 and 1950, allowing him to assess campus trends between 1920 and 1970. The findings vary considerably by university. Overall, Hoge finds considerable variation in the degree of religious orthodoxy among students, observing declining levels from 1920 to the late 1930s, an increase through the early 1950s, and then a rapid decline to 1969. He also finds that, between 1950 and 1970, “the major change has been in increased tolerance of other religious views and of religious pluralism in society.”

Hoge, D. R. and J. L. Hoge, et al. 1987. “The Return of the Fifties: Trends in College Students’ Values between 1952 and 1984.” Sociological Forum 2(3): 500-519.

            This paper finds a marked shift toward more conservative values and beliefs since the mid-1970s. Based on questionnaires distributed at Dartmouth College and the University of Michigan, the authors find that denominational affiliation, belief in God, and religious service attendance rebounded between 1974 and 1984. These religious changes are accompanied by a rise in conservative values on economic, political, and moral issues such as sex and drug use. The authors conclude that “the extreme personal conformity and political quietism of the fifties has not returned, but all the other attitudes are moving toward the fifties or have already arrived there…The interpretation that American colleges in the late 1980s are seeing a return of the fifties is correct.”

Hollinger, F. and T. B. Smith. 2002. “Religion and Esotericism among Students: A Cross-Cultural Comparative Study.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 17(2): 229-249.

            This article measures not only religious beliefs but also the prevalence of esoteric beliefs and practices among students. What affects the development and maintenance of these beliefs—environment, culture, area of study, or personal characteristics? The researchers surveyed students from different academic disciplines in North America, South America, and Europe on the topics of religious belief and practice, belief in occult subjects such as psychics and astrology, and participation in “New Age activities” from yoga practice to fortune telling. Country of residence, gender, and major all were found to impact religiosity and esoteric belief and practice.

Hunt, K. and G. Hunt. 1991. For Christ and the University: The Story of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship of the U.S.A. 1940-1990. Downer’s Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity.

            This book provides a history of the events that shaped the first fifty years of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, beginning with events that date back to the founding of the modern university in A.D. 1090. The data comes from archival material and interviews with two hundred past and current members of InterVarsity. The authors describe how the first Christian groups in the nineteenth century, the spiritual heirs of important figures of the Great Awakening, helped shape an evangelical ethos that formed the cornerstone of InterVarsity. They go on to describe important mergers with the Student Foreign Missions Fellowship and Christian Nurses Fellowship; the challenges posed by fraternities and conservatism in the post-World War II era; the challenges of long hours and low pay for student members; and the ways in which the organization matured through the 1980s and 1990s. The authors conclude with future concerns for InterVarsity: financing ministry work, paying attention to its theological roots, and ensuring a valuable legacy for past, present, and future members.

Hunter, J. D. 1987. Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

            In this book, Hunter examines the changing landscape of American evangelicalism against the backdrop of the religion’s emergence this past century as a “global phenomenon.” The data for the book came from a research project entitled the evangelical Academy Project, which administered surveys to students and faculty at 16 evangelical colleges. Hunter interrogates several elements of evangelical life—theology, work, family, the self, and politics—and finds that its cultural traditions are changing in step with the shift towards modernity. In particular, modernity’s impact on evangelicalism’s “symbolic boundaries”—the “rules and guidelines by which ordinary people make sense of their personal lives”—comes in many forms, including a higher education system that has become more hostile towards religion, elites (clergy, priests, etc.) who are more willing to alter old traditions, and a Protestant politics that is increasingly more liberal. For these reasons, Hunter voices his pessimism about the future of conservative Protestantism in America.

Ingram, L. C. 1986. “Sectarian Colleges and Academic Freedom.” Review of Religious Research 27(4): 300-314.

            Can colleges provide a “Christian education” while also promoting academic freedom in their classes?  Using data from an assortment of college publications (catalogues, student and faculty handbooks) as well as interviews with students, faculty, and administrators at six Christian colleges, Ingram seeks to shed light on the “ambiguous sectarian stance” these colleges take “of seeking both worldly success and religious devotion.”  According to the Mayer Zald’s framework for organizational change, change in an organization is the result of the interaction among variables in the organization’s polity—the agreements which define the goals of the organization, as well as the responsibilities and rights of its members—and its economy—the division of labor, the way resources are allocated for accomplishing tasks, etc. While a majority of the colleges had a statement endorsing academic freedom, Ingram finds that “academic freedom is not intended to interfere with the emphasis on sectarian identification but is rather to be limited by the goals of providing intensive socialization in a protective environment.”

Jablonski, M., ed. 2001. Implications of Student Spirituality for Student Affairs Practice: New Directions for Student Services, No. 95. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

            This special edition of New Directions for Student Services contains a collection of articles examining the role of spirituality in the theory and practice of student affairs. The articles address the theoretical connections between spirituality and student development; the role of spirituality in career exploration; models for infusing spirituality into student affairs practice; the role of law in shaping the possibilities for a more spiritual student affairs; the role of spirituality in staff training; the role of spirituality in graduate education in student affairs; reflections on the role of spirituality in higher education; and an annotated bibliography.

Jacobsen, D. and R. H. Jacobsen, eds. Forthcoming. The American University in a Postsecular Age: Religion and Higher Education. New York, Oxford University Press.

            The fourteen essays in this edited volume cover a wide range of topics concerning religion and the academy. The first half focuses on questions about how faculty understand religiosity and the institutional setting in which they do so. The second half addresses religion in the curriculum and how faculty members deal with religious students. While the book does not promote any particular point of view, the essayists are generally favorably disposed toward the new concept of post-secularity” emerging in higher education. Generally, the contributors confront the complexities and trade-offs inherent in each approach to engaging (or not) with religion, and shy away from any “one-size-fits-all” answers.

Jaschik, S. 2006. “The ‘Great Divide’ in Religious Studies.” Inside Higher Ed. 20 November 2006. (Available online:

            This article presents a preview of findings from Barbara Walvoord’s national survey of faculty and students in introductory religious studies courses. Walvoord finds a “great divide between what professors want to accomplish and what students want to achieve.” Faculty members at both religious and secular colleges are most concerned with developing critical thinking skills. Their students, by contrast, are more interested in learning concrete information about religious groups, developing their moral and ethical values, and having conversations about “big questions” and the meaning of life. Jaschik’s article concludes with comments from various religious studies faculty, who discuss their experiences negotiating the balance between fostering critical thinking and enabling spiritual growth.

Kennedy, E. J. and L. Lawton. 1998. “Religiousness and Business Ethics.” Journal of Business Ethics 17: 163-175.

            Kennedy and Lawton seek to establish a relationship between “unethical” behavior and religion, major, and/or type of college attended (secular, Catholic, or Baptist) among college students. Students from four different universities are surveyed about their religious orientation and attitudes, then asked to rate their likelihood of behaving unethically in several different hypothetical business situations. The researchers found that less willingness by evangelical Christian students to participate in unethical behaviors. They also found that certain religious orientations affected students’ indications of behavior. College major and type of college, however, were not found to be relevant to ethical behavior.

Kim, R. Y. 2004. “Second-Generation Korean American Evangelicals: Ethnic, Multiethnic, or White Campus Ministries?” Sociology of Religion 65(1):19-34.

            The recent growth in Asian American enrollment in colleges has been accompanied by a surge in the number of Asian American campus evangelicals. Yet, when presented with the choice, why do second-generation Korean American college students (SGKAs) choose to participate in ethnic campus ministries over more inclusive congregations? To answer this question, Kim engaged in participant observation at five ministries at a large university, and later conducted over 100 interviews with student members and staff involved with these ministries. Based on her data, Kim argues that three factors are responsible for the drawing of separate ethnic group boundaries: first, the students’ “desire for community” interacts “with changes in ethnic density and diversity”; the students simply have “more opportunity to participate in separate ethnic religious organizations in an ethnically dense and diverse structural setting.” Second, there is a strong “propensity to interact with those who are most familiar and similar. Third, “the desire for power and majority status” interacts “with the marginalization of individuals categorized as belonging to a particular ethnic or racial group.” In other words, SGKAs, who find “that they are continuously marginalized as an ethnic/racial minority and lack relative power,” thus seek “benefits and privileges that the white majority enjoys.”

Kim, R. Y. 2006. God’s New Whiz Kids? Korean American Evangelicals on Campus. New York: NYU Press.

            This book expands on Kim’s 2004 study of second-generation Korean American students (SGKAs) on college campuses. As that study and other recent reports have shown, Asian American college students constitute a sizeable and influential proportion of evangelical Christian campus groups across the country. The number of Asian American members of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship alone has increased by 267 percent in the past fifteen years. Kim examines the growing participation of U.S.-born Korean American students (who, along with Chinese Americans, form the vast majority of Asian American college evangelicals) in evangelical campus groups with the aim of addressing several issues: first, why SGKAs regularly choose to join exclusive evangelical campus groups over more inclusive ones; second, how SGKA evangelical groups compare with those of first-generation Korean-Americans; third, how the evangelical identities of SGKAs are shaped by interactions with the broader ethnic community and broader evangelical community; and finally, how SGKAs deal with challenges that emerge from the tension between ethnic separation and religious universalism. Kim rejects assimilation and retention explanations and argues instead that SGKAs are adopting an emergent, “made in the U.S.A.” ethnicity (see Kim 2004 for another discussion of this “emergent identity.”)

Kuh, G. D. 2004. “Do Environments Matter? A Comparative Analysis of the Impress of Different Types of Colleges and Universities on Character.” Journal of College and Character 2. (Available online:

            Kuh describes and challenges a recent movement in higher education, a shift of focus to career preparation and away from character formation of students. College is a critical and promising time for value development, and in today’s society, he argues, universities must take responsibility for shaping ethical and humanitarian citizens. An ongoing study has revealed that in recent years students are generally reporting that they experience less value development in college, but this troubling drop is less pronounced in certain types of colleges—specifically, values-centered or Christian institutions. Kuh suggests that more research be conducted on exactly what aspects of college shape character, and he suggests ways for institutions that are not currently doing so to reinstate character development into their missions and help shape their students’ values once again.

Kuh, G. D. and R. M. Gonyea. 2006. “Spirituality, Liberal Learning, and College Student Engagement.” Liberal Education 92(1): 40-47.

            What effect does students’ spirituality have on their ability to engage deeply with their college education? The authors analyze survey data to establish a relationship between spirituality and a concept called “deep learning,” a goal for students that includes integrating different perspectives into what is learned, discussing lessons outside of class, and applying critical thinking skills. According to this study, students who engage in spiritual activities benefit in ways conducive to deep learning: they are more satisfied with college, they “view the out-of-class environment more positively,” and they are more likely to interact with peers who are different from them. Students’ education does not appear to be negatively impacted by spirituality in any way. The authors point out differences between secular and faith-based schools in this department, and they pose several questions designed to help colleges and universities better facilitate deep learning and support spiritual engagement on campus.

Larson, E. J. and L. Witham. 1997. “Scientists Are Still Keeping the Faith.” Nature 386: 435-436.

            In 1916, a psychologist named James Leuba found religious belief among scientists to be comparatively low. In the 1990s, Larson and Witham replicate the study to see if this has changed after 80 years. Their results, which suggest that significant numbers of scientists still hold traditional religious beliefs, appear to defy the stereotype of scientists as nonbelievers.

Larson, E. J. and L. Witham. 1998. “Leading Scientists Still Reject God.” Nature 394: 313.

            In a previous survey, Larson and Witham find that the scientific profession as a whole still contains many religious individuals. This follow-up study finds that “among the top natural scientists, disbelief is greater than ever.” The percentage of leading natural scientists (in this sample, members of the elite National Academy of Sciences) who believe in God has been dropping steadily over the twentieth century, from the time James Leuba conducted his original survey on the topic in 1916. Several different areas of specialization are contrasted, such as biology, physical science, mathematics, and astronomy, and the results are compared to Leuba’s. The authors believe this information may call into question assertions about the religiosity of scientists and the neutrality of science with respect to religion.

Lee, J. and A. Matzken, et al. 2006. “Understanding Students’ Religious and Spiritual Pursuits: A Case Study at New York University.” Journal of College and Character 2.

            The authors conduct a survey of non-first-year students at New York University to learn more about their religious or spiritual beliefs and the effect of NYU on their belief systems. Findings indicate that relatively few students change their religious affiliation while in college, and many consider their “spiritual” identity to be stronger than their “religious” identity. However, many changes are reported during college, including amount of intellectual interest in religion, strength of belief (often, a strengthening), and frequency of devotional, worship, or service activities, and the perceived reasons for these changes are diverse. Although some of the information is specific to NYU, a great deal of it could be useful outside of that context.

Lee, J. J. 2002. “Religion and College Attendance: Change among Students.” The Review of Higher Education 25(4): 369-384.

            What is the effect of college attendance on student religiosity? Lee uses the results from two surveys given to students near the beginning and the end of their college years, to measure changes in religious commitment over that period of time. The results: “most students experienced a change in their religious beliefs and convictions since entering college…over one third of them reported a strengthening of religious convictions and beliefs compared to 13.7% who indicated a weakening.” Almost half of the students reported no change, and Lee mentions several characteristics that seem to affect the likelihood and direction of religious change.

Leuba, J. H. 1916. The Belief in God and Immortality: A Psychological, Anthropological, and Statistical Study. Boston: Sherman, French and Company.

            Leuba’s book is a comprehensive, psychological exploration of conceptions of immortality and God around the world, from ancient to modern times.  Part II is most relevant to the topic of college and religious belief, as Leuba questions students at ten institutions about belief in God and students at one about immortality.  He concludes that “so far as religion is concerned, our students are groveling in darkness…and few seem disturbed at being unable to hold the tenets of the churches.”  He also finds belief in immortality to be lower among juniors and seniors.  The following chapter is also of interest, analyzing the beliefs of natural and social scientists, many of them college professors.  As he discusses each set of studies, Leuba provides interpretations of the levels of religious belief and what they mean for society.

Mahoney, K. A. and J. Schmalzbauer, et al. 2001. “Religion: A Comeback on Campus.” Liberal Education 87(4): 36-41.

            This is a concise summary of factors that have contributed to the renewed prominence of religion in American universities. The authors note that, despite gloomy predictions about religion’s place in the academy during the 1990s, religious life on campus is vibrant. They argue that this revival is the product of many forces, including the “robust state of public religion in American society,” the emergence of post-positivist scholarship, and the increased availability of financial support for religious activities on college campuses.

Marsden, G. 1994. The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Non-Belief. New York: Oxford University Press.

            This book is a careful look at the evolution of religion on American college campuses. According to the author, American universities today promote and protect the free exercise of religion, but resist the use of religious explanations in critical inquiry. What’s left is a secular campus culture or the “disestablishment of religion.” Marsden traces this history through case studies of “pace-setting” universities such as Harvard and Yale. He argues that universities should encourage religious pluralism on campus—allowing religious perspectives alongside other popular viewpoints such as feminism and multiculturalism—and among campuses—allowing religiously affiliated universities to be regarded on equal terms as secular institutions, and avoiding the tendency for schools to adhere to any one monolithic mold.

McMurtrie, B. 1999. “Pluralism and Prayer Under One Roof.” Chronicle of Higher Education 46(15): A48-A50.

            Many universities are beginning to create multi-faith spaces for worship to respond to the religious needs of an increasingly diverse student body. McMurtrie investigates a few such schools in her short article. Interviews with officials involved in these efforts “say they built these centers to acknowledge the importance of religion in students’ lives, to insure parity among religious groups seeking space, and to encourage interaction among students of different faiths.” Although a few conflicts have arisen among student groups who do not wish to share a place of worship with those of other faiths, students at these institutions are generally understanding and appreciative of the changes.

Mooney, M. 2005. Religion at America’s Most Selective Colleges: Some Findings from the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen (NLSF). Annual Meeting of the Association for the Sociology of Religion.

            Does religion improve academic achievement in college? Drawing upon the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen dataset, Margarita Mooney argues that it does. Mooney finds that those students who participate in religious rituals have higher GPAs, that more “religiously observant” students studied longer hours, and that those who attend services once a week or more were more satisfied with their college experience. Mooney suggests that attending church may provide structure and guidance for college students, and that being part of a religious community during college may make students happier.

Nash, R. J. 2001. Religious Pluralism in the Academy: Opening the Dialogue. New York: Peter Lang.

            This book argues that American colleges and universities need to sponsor conversations among students about religious difference in order to navigate the complexities of the religiously pluralistic campus. Nash identifies the problem presented to the pluralistic academy by “religious monists” who believe “unalterably that there is One Truth in one set of doctrines rather than several truths in many.” Nash outlines six common “religio-spiritual narratives” about religion and religious pluralism in the academy drawn from his experience as a lecturer, identifying the challenges and opportunities each poses educators. He then asks how efforts to incorporate religion and values into the curriculum might be undertaken, and how educators and students can begin to speak about religious differences.

Nasir, N. i. S. and J. Al-Amin. 2006. “Creating Identity-safe Spaces on College Campuses for Muslim Students.” Change 38(2): 22-27.

            The authors, two Muslim women, write from personal experience and the experiences of others gleaned from interviews and discussions with Muslims from varied backgrounds. They wish to relate in particular the experience “of being Muslim in academic spaces, of feeling the need to actively negotiate others’ perceptions of us in these spaces, and of finding ways to stay connected to our institutions despite gaps in their support and understanding of this part of our identities.” Issues encountered by Muslims on campuses include negative stereotyping, difficulty practicing their religion, and discrimination. The article discusses in detail several simple changes that could significantly combat these students’ difficulties. An important viewpoint for university administrators, teachers, community members, and anyone else interested in helping Muslim students thrive and feel welcomed.

Ozorak, E. W. 2003. “Love of God and Neighbor: Religion and Volunteer Service among College Students.” Review of Religious Research 44(3): 285-299.

            How is religious commitment related to volunteer service? Ozorak’s survey of undergraduate students at one secular university finds several interesting relationships between measures of religiosity and volunteering. “Intrinsic motivation to volunteer,” which is a powerful indicator of intention to volunteer again, appears to be found more often in individuals who believe in personal prayer and report a personal relationship with God. Ozorak also distinguished women’s results from men’s: although the sexes had similar levels of religiosity, praying and claiming a higher level of religiosity was linked to intention to volunteer only for women. Belief in God is linked to volunteerism for both men and women.

Pascarella, E. T. and P. T. Terenzini. 2005. How College Affects Students: A Third Decade of Research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

            This book provides a broad, synthetic overview of research on how college students change during college. Its scope is much broader than religion, but it does include some analysis of religious change in college. The authors discuss recent research that shows that college students do not reject religion, but rather “refine and reinterpret previously held beliefs into more complex, personalized, and internalized concepts.” Additional findings include: students seem to become more tolerant of religious diversity in college; there is limited evidence that students at Christian schools experience less decline in religiosity than those at other schools; and students who live on campus appear to become more irreligious than those who live off campus.

Penning, J. and C. Smidt. 2002. Evangelicalism: The Next Generation. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic.

            In Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation, James Davison Hunter provides a pessimistic outlook on the future of conservative Protestantism.  Fifteen years later, Penning and Smidt replicate Hunter’s classic study in order to see how the new generation of college Evangelicals compares to the early-1980s generation in Hunter’s study.  They find that while some secularizing has occurred, the religious beliefs, practices, values, and political attitudes of college Evangelicals have not changed much.  These findings contradict Hunter’s findings that college Evangelicals would fall under the weight of modernity’s pressures.  This enduring Protestant identity compels the authors to offer an outlook on conservative Protestantism that is less pessimistic than Hunter’s.

Perkins, H. W. 1994. “The Contextual Effect of Secular Norms on Religiosity as Moderator of Student Alcohol and Other Drug Use.” Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion 6: 187-208.

            In this study, the author investigates whether secular norms about drug use affect religious precepts that limit drug and alcohol use among college students. Relying on two surveys of a small New York State liberal arts college, Perkins finds that in general, high religiosity is associated with less drug and alcohol use. However, when students perceived that there was a strong norm against drug use, the effect of religion disappears for men, though it remains strong for women. Perkins argues that for men, religiosity’s ability to limit drug use is stronger where secular norms are more permissive.

Perrin, R. D. 2000. “Religiosity and Honesty: Continuing the Search for the Consequential Dimension.” Review of Religious Research 41(4): 534-544.

            Can religiosity predict honest behavior? In this article, Perrin argues that it can, to an extent. Perrin presented 130 college students with an opportunity to be dishonest: the teaching assistant of a large lecture course handed back a quiz, graded so that each student received an extra point, and asked students to note whether any correction was needed. 44% of self-identified “born-again Christians” admitted they had received an extra point, compared to 26% who were not born-again. Likewise, 45% of those who attended religious services regularly admitted to receiving an extra point, compared to 13% of those who never or rarely attended services. While these differences were significant, the author cautions that “even among the highly religious, the majority of students were not honest.”

Pollard, L. J. and L. W. Bates. 2004. “Religion and Perceived Stress among

Undergraduates during Fall 2001 Final Examinations.” Psychological Reports 95: 999-1007.

            What is the relationship between religion and perceived stress? For Pollard and Bates, results from a battery of questionnaires suggest that those who find meaning in religion generally cope better with stressors; or at least, perceive themselves to cope better. The researchers administered surveys to 97 college students. 70% of the respondents were women, nearly half were affiliated with the Baptist Church, and over 85% were white. The questionnaires measured students according to three scales: a “Spiritual Well-being Scale” which concerns perception of one’s relationship to God and to others; an “Intrinsic/Extrinsic-Revised Scale” which yields respondents’ orientations towards how religion meets their personal and social needs; and a “Perceived Stress Scale” which measures “how much respondents find their lives unpredictable, uncontrollable, and overloading.” Authors administered the questionnaires during times of so-called extreme national stressors, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the anthrax scare, as well as the local stressor of impending final examinations.

Regnerus, M. D. 2003. “Religion and Positive Adolescent Outcomes: A Review of Research and Theory.” Review of Religious Research 44(4): 394-413.

            This article is a summary and analysis of recent literature about how religion may produce positive effects in adolescents, including “education, emotional and physical health, family well-being, volunteerism,” and even behaviors like wearing a seat belt, exercising, eating well, and sleeping. Many studies have been conducted on this topic, with vastly different methods and measurements, and the results suggest that either directly or indirectly, religion does play an important role in positive outcomes for adolescents. Although the focus here is not on college students precisely, the results are generally similar to those obtained with college student samples.

Reisberg, L. 2000. “Campus Witches May Wear Black, But Don’t Look for Hats or Broomsticks.” Chronicle of Higher Education 47(8): A49-A50.

            A new moon rises over the campus of the University of Georgia. A group of students gather to participate in the “Athena Ritual,” meant to cast a “protection spell” for the university’s hometown of Athens. Reisberg describes this ritual as part of a growing pagan movement on campuses across the United States. Their members embrace beliefs spanning a variety of traditions including Celtic, druid, and shamanistic. Many are influenced by the Wicca religion, commonly referred to as witchcraft, with roots in pre-Christian Europe. Paganism has supporters in both the environmental and feminist movements. While pagan students at the University of Georgia sometimes feel the need to defend themselves from their critics, they say that the campus generally tolerates them.

Riley, N. S. 2004. God on the Quad: How Religious Colleges and the Missionary Generation are Changing America. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

            To collect material for this book, the author embarks on a cross-country trip to 20 faith-based colleges (spanning a range of faiths such as Orthodox Jewish, Baptist, Catholic, and fundamentalist Protestant), talking candidly with students on a wide range of issues including dating, classes, career aspirations, school administration, and their own faith. Riley provides an in-depth look at several colleges—including Notre Dame, Brigham Young, and Yeshiva—before discussing their common histories and the challenges and aspirations they share. She discusses issues such as feminism on campus, diversity, the role of minority religions on campus, and how social life at faith-based colleges differs from that at secular institutions.

Rosin, H. 2005. “God and Country.” The New Yorker 81: 44.

            Students and staff at Patrick Henry College, located in Virginia about 50 miles west of Washington, DC, call their college by many names: the “evangelical Ivy League” (nearly all of the students are conservative Christians) and “Harvard for Homeschoolers” (nearly all of the students were home-schooled). But as Rosin shows, Patrick Henry College is best known for preparing future Christian politicians. The school was founded in 2000 in order to satisfy two constituencies: parents of homeschooled students who wanted their students to receive a Christian education, and conservative congressmen wishing to hire homeschoolers for positions as interns and staffers. Not surprisingly, then, politically and religiously conservative views permeate discussions in classrooms. Student government and debate are popular activities. The students at Patrick Henry abide by a strict set of campus-wide social rules—girls are expected to dress modestly; smoking, drinking, and public displays of affection are forbidden—and they describe the atmosphere as intense and competitive. While one-fifth of all incoming students drop out, many of those who do stay are content with devoting their lives to their faith and their political careers.

Schmalzbauer, J. 2003. People of Faith: Religious Conviction in American Journalism and Higher Education. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.

            In this book, Schmalzbauer explores the professional and religious challenges that face social science professors and journalists who are also people of faith. Schmalzbauer interviewed twenty social scientists in the fields of history, political science, and sociology, and found that “Catholic and evangelical professionals clearly take their religious beliefs to work,” which casts doubt on the “depiction of the total marginalization of religion in public life.” Some of these religious professionals take a “middle-of-the-road” approach to their work, one that recognizes “both the importance of empirical inquiry and the role of religious and philosophical presuppositions in shaping that inquiry.” Others, meanwhile, undergo a balancing act of demonstrating their full commitment to their scholarly work while also justifying “the use of religious perspectives in their academic disciplines.”

Sherkat, D. E. and A. Darnell. 1999. “The Effect of Parents’ Fundamentalism on Children’s Educational Attainment: Examining Differences by Gender and Children’s Fundamentalism.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 38(1): 23-35.

            The authors assess the influence of parents’ fundamentalist beliefs and practices on their children’s educational success. Knowing that fundamentalist leaders disapprove of secular education and that fundamentalist colleges are too expensive for many, Sherkat and Darnell hypothesize and ultimately find that children who share their parents’ orientation are more likely to have primary access to higher education, while non-fundamentalist children, especially daughters, from fundamentalist families may be at a disadvantage. These latter groups appear likely to experience more financial challenges and familial resistance to their educational prospects.

Sloan, D. 1994. Faith and Knowledge: Mainline Protestantism and Higher Education. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press.

            In this book, Sloan documents the Protestant efforts in the 1950s and 1960s to challenge the scientific ethos prevalent in American universities; in particular, the work of Protestant theologians to address epistemological concerns stemming from the secularization and “disestablishment of religion” on campus (see Marsden 1994 for more discussion of this secularization on campus). He first describes small victories for the Protestant Church: the growth of campus ministries, the establishment of Christian publications, new college courses on religion. He then turns to a discussion of the challenges and successes of a diverse range of theologians—including neoorthodox theologians, secular theologians associated with the death-of-God movement, and radical empiricist theologians—who sought to influence mainstream academia with their theologies. Throughout the author privileges Protestant efforts to resist the scientific rationality—and in particular, the notion that all knowledge can be perceived by the senses and derived from empirical data—that pervades the academy. He concludes by arguing that many of the Protestant efforts of the mid-twentieth century failed to leave a lasting impact on American universities, and sees the current era as ripe for another Protestant challenge to the scientific ethos.

Smith, C. 1998. American Evangelicalism: Embattled and Thriving. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

            This book provides a broad overview of the history, organization, and culture of the flourishing evangelical movement. Smith argues that evangelicals thrived in late twentieth century America by crafting a series of distinctive boundaries that allows them to engage with non-evangelicals while maintaining their belief system. Smith concludes by observing that evangelicals see the world in exceedingly individualistic terms, and that this hinders them from making effective pushes for social change.

Smith, C., ed. 2003. The Secular Revolution: Power, Interests, and Conflict in the Secularization of American Public Life. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

            The contributors to this volume make the case that secularization is a political project, undertaken by secularizing “activists” who sought to enhance their own status and authority as cultural and knowledge producers by driving religion out of public life. According to Christian Smith in his preface to the volume, “the historical secularization of American public life was not a natural, inevitable, and abstract by-product of modernization; rather it was the outcome of a struggle between contending groups with conflicting interests seeking to control social knowledge and institutions.” In addition to a long theoretical introduction by Smith, the volume contains individual case studies regarding the secularization of higher education, public education, moral reform politics, psychology, law, journalism, science, and medicine.

Smith, C. and M. Denton. 2005. Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. New York: Oxford University Press.

            This book presents the results of a nationwide survey and in-depth interviews with adolescents aged 13-17. While it does not deal with the religious engagements of undergraduate students directly, it provides an outstanding portrait of the religious engagements of high school students in the early 2000s. Smith and Denton find that religion is important in the lives of teenagers, but that their religious commitments are remarkably conventional overall. They do not find much evidence that teenagers engage in “spiritual quests”; rather, it is parents who provide the strongest influence on teens’ religious and spiritual lives. Many teenagers’ faith rests at a rather superficial level, what the authors describe as “moral therapeutic deism.” Despite teens’ apparently weak engagement with their religious traditions, Smith and Denton note “sizable and significant differences in a variety of important life outcomes between more and less religious teenagers,” including academic success, likelihood of drug use, sexual behavior, and civic engagement.

Sommerville, C. J. 2006. The Decline of the Secular University: Why the Academy Needs Religion. New York: Oxford University Press.

            The author offers a number of perspectives on the idea that secular universities are becoming increasingly marginalized in America. One such perspective is the abandonment of liberal arts training in favor of professional training programs. Another is that university faculties lean politically to the left while the rest of the country drifts closer to the right, and few academics dominate the talk shows that claim to embody public opinion. Sommerville proposes a return to critical engagement with religion and moral questions in the university (see Taylor 2006 for further discussion on this topic).

Sterk, A., ed. 2002. “Religion, Scholarship, and Higher Education: Perspectives, Models, and Future Prospects.” Lilly Seminar on Religion and Higher Education. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press.

            The essays in this collection were compiled from addresses to the Lilly Seminar on Religion and Higher Education between 1998 and 1999. Essays in Part I address foundational issues on diverse and at times conflicting subjects, such as James Turner’s essay on the ways in which religious intellectual traditions can contribute to scholarship; and David Hollinger’s essay on how universities should maintain a “critical distance from religion in general and Christianity in particular.” The contributors in Part II take up the issue of religion and scholarship. Scholars John McGreevey, Nancy Ammerman, Roger Lundin, Brian Daley and others provide summaries of religion and research in their respective disciplines. Serene Jones demonstrates the ways in which classical Christian theology have influenced her feminist theory. Part III addresses the issue of teaching. Essays in this section include Mark Noll’s take on being a history instructor on a Christian campus, and Robert Wuthnow’s account of how religion influences his many responsibilities as professor, advisor, and administrator.

Swidey, N. 2003. “God on the Quad.” Boston Globe 30 November 2003.

            Every Sunday night at Park Street Church, over 1,000 evangelical students from colleges across the Boston area gather for music and fellowship. A live band performs by the altar, and lyrics, flashed on a huge screen, encourage the students to sing along: “You make me move, Jesus/Every breath I take, I breathe in You!” Swidey’s article offers a portrait of the growing number of evangelical communities that have thrived on Boston-area campuses in recent years. While some evangelical groups are associated with national organizations like Campus Crusade for Christ and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, others are homegrown. Students reflect a range of ethnic and racial backgrounds, though Asian-American students are a particularly notable presence in the fellowships (see Rebecca Kim (2004) for a discussion of Asian American campus ministries).

Taylor, M. C. 2006. “The Devoted Student.” The New York Times 21 December 2006, late ed., sec. A: 39.

            In this op-ed, Taylor argues that as more and more college students practice traditional forms of religion, fewer seem willing to think critically about their own faith. This wave of “religious correctness” has put college professors, particularly those who “propose psychological, sociological, and anthropological interpretations of religious texts,” on the defensive. Yet a failure to consider the complexities among traditions could have devastating consequences. If colleges and universities fail to promote and participate in an open dialogue of faith, Taylor warns, the “conflicts of the future will probably be even more deadly.” (See Sommerville 2006 for further discussion of how universities can engage critically about faith.)

Uecker, J. E. and M. D. Regnerus, and M. Vaaler. Forthcoming. “Losing My Religion: The Social Sources of Religious Decline in Early Adulthood.” Social Forces.

            In this article, the authors examine a number of factors presumed to lead to religious decline. Using nationally representative survey data, they test three factors in particular: college attendance, normative deviation, and changes in the life-course. Most surprisingly, they find that college attendance, far from reducing religiosity as is often assumed, appears to prevent young adults from “losing their religion.” Those who never attended college had the highest rates of disaffiliation, decreased service attendance, and decreased importance placed on religion. By contrast, those who had completed a bachelor’s degree had among the lowest rates on all three of those factors. “Simply put,” they write, “higher education is not the enemy of religiosity that so many have made it out to be.” Uecker and colleagues further find mixed evidence for the influence of normative deviation and demographic factors. They conclude by speculating about other factors that might contribute to religious decline: competing activities, inadequate childhood socialization into religion, and increased privatization of religious belief and practice.

Wilkins, A. C. 2008. Wannabes, Goths, and Christians: The Boundaries of Sex, Style, and Status.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

            Wilkins’ comparative ethnography of three young adult cultural projects includes two chapters on a university-based evangelical Christian group, “University Unity” (a pseudonym).  The book treats each cultural project as a case study in gender, race, and class.  Chapter 4, “Just Good People,” analyzes Christianity as a young adult identity strategy with both benefits and costs for participants.  In particular, the chapter examines the ways in which Unity Christians use group practices and rhetoric—including rejecting university party culture, focusing on self-discipline, and claiming happiness—to think of themselves as “good people.” Chapter 5, “Abstinence,” considers Unity abstinence from both sex and dating (“romantic abstinence”), focusing on the (sometimes surprising) gender implications.

Wilkins, A. C. Forthcoming September 2008. “‘Happier than Non-Christians’: Collective Emotions and Symbolic Boundaries among Evangelical Christians.”  Social Psychology Quarterly 71(3).

            Rather than viewing happiness as a mental health outcome of participation in a religious organization, this article views it as a group process—a way of talking and thinking about emotions.  The article details how participants in a campus Christian group learn to think of themselves as happy, how they learn to create new emotions, and how they learn to link happiness to their moral selves.  Because happiness is central to participants’ identities as Christians, it is also compulsory.  Finally, the article argues that participants use happiness as a symbolic boundary to draw moral lines between Christians and non-Christians.    

Wilkins, A. C. Forthcoming 2009. “Masculinity Dilemmas: Sexuality and Intimacy Talk among Christians and Goths.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. 34(2).

            This article compares ideas about how men should and do behave in two college-age subcultures: Goths and University Unity Christians.  Participation in both groups provides new opportunities to achieve masculinity: Goths are heterosexually active, while Unity Christians are abstinent.  Although abstinence seems to violate conventional notions of masculine virility, Unity men use their abstinence to claim masculinity through self-discipline. Surprisingly, both Goth and Unity men talk about their relationships with women in similar ways, using a language of emotional intimacy and care.  The article concludes by examining the cultural implications of this talk.  

Wuthnow, R. 1998. After Heaven: Spirituality in America Since the 1950s. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California, Berkeley.

            In this book, Robert Wuthnow argues that American spirituality has undergone a sea change over the past fifty years, shifting from a “spirituality of dwelling” to a “spirituality of seeking.” According to Wuthnow, economic and social changes in the 1960s were responsible for the shift from taken-for-granted, place-bound forms of spirituality to an ongoing process of spiritual negotiation. Americans today must confront their spirituality in a more secular context, and must therefore relate to it in a more assertive and deliberate manner. This has led to a kind of spirituality focused on the self, eclectically pieced together from a variety of sources, and oriented to a new ideal of freedom. Wuthnow calls for a spirituality of practices that encourages deeper engagement with the sacred while maintaining spirituality’s adaptation to a more fluid time.

Wuthnow, R. 2007. After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings Are Shaping the Future of American Religion. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

            Wuthnow’s latest book provides a comprehensive look at how the socio-economic, political, religious, and spiritual profiles of the current generation of young adults compare to those of the baby boomers before them. Wuthnow identifies an important trend in the religious practices of young adults today—the significant decline in participation at religious services. But secularizing tendencies, surprisingly, cannot explain this trend; rather, as Wuthnow argues, the decline in participation at religious services can be explained by contemporary family patterns such as postponement of marriage and childrearing. Wuthnow also examines the myriad ways that religious involvement shapes the social and political identities of young adults, and how American religion is changing as a result of immigration and ethnic diversity. Wuthnow’s central argument is that today’s young adults are “coming of age” later than the baby boomers before them. With fewer institutional supports available to previous generations, these young adults are taking longer to accomplish the major developmental tasks of young adulthood—and some fail. 

Zern, D. S. 1989. “Some Connections Between Increasing Religiousness and Academic Accomplishment in a College Population.” Adolescence 24: 141-154.

            In this study, Zern surveys college students about their religious beliefs and their grade point averages (GPAs). Asking separate questions about past and current religiosity, he found that neither of these individual measures of religion in the students was related to their grades. However, for about ten percent of these college students, their current religiosity was higher than that of their past or the environment they were raised in; these particular students of “increasing religiousness” during college showed a tendency to have higher GPAs than students of decreasing religiousness or those whose level did not change.