Cultivating the Spirit: How College Can Enhance Students' Inner Lives / Edition 1

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This groundbreaking work is based on a five-year study of how students change during the college years and the role college plays in facilitating the development of their spiritual qualities. Students, the authors argue, grapple with the big questions in life: Who am I? What are my values? Do I have a mission in life? Why am I in college? What kind of person do I want to be? What sort of world do I want to help to create? Their answers to these questions help determine their academic and career choices and are tied to the development of personal qualities such as empathy, caring, and social responsibility.

The study finds that, while students' religious engagement declines during college, at the same time they become substantially more caring, tolerant, connected with others, and actively egaged in a spiritual quest. Spiritual growth also enhances academic performance, leadership development, and satisfaction with college. The study provides strong evidence pointing to specific experiences during college that can contribute to students' spiritual growth.

The need for spiritual development in college is apparent. Two-thirds of the students in the study express a strong interest in spiritual matters, well over half report that their professors never encourage discussions of religious or spiritual matters, and about the same proportion report that professors never provide opportunities to discuss the purpose and meaning of life.

Cultivating the Spirit aims to raise the awareness of academic administrators, faculty, and the public at large to the vital role that spirituality plays in student learning and development. Throughout the book, the authors identify strategies for enhancing students' development and encourage the academy to give greater priority to the spiritual aspects of students' educational and personal development.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
"A groundbreaking study of the spiritual growth of college students.... The spiritual dimension of higher education has been explored from a variety of angles for the past twenty years, but not until now have we had a competent and comprehensive body of data organized around well-defined dimensions of this complex phenomenon. This is an essential book for anyone in academia who cares about the education of the whole person."
Parker J. Palmer, author, The Heart of Higher Education, A Hidden Wholeness, Let Your Life Speak, and The Courage to Teach

"An extremely important book for layperson and professional alike. A stunning wake-up call for higher education—highly recommended!"
Ken Wilber, author, The Integral Vision

"Cultivating the Spirit makes a unique and important contribution to one of the least examined yet most fundamental questions about undergraduate education: how students acquire the values and convictions that help to give meaning and purpose to their lives.... The authors provide a wealth of valuable findings about this vital process and its effects on student achievement, well-being, and personal growth in college."
Derek Bok, former president, Harvard University, and author, The Politics of Happiness

"The fruit of a decade of elegantly designed and compelling research, Cultivating the Spirit provides timely and significant data for reorienting the conversation about the relationships among intellectual inquiry, traditional academic values, and the formation of the inner life. Informative, clearly written, essential, and evocative reading for today's faculty across all institutions—public and private, secular and religious."
Sharon Daloz Parks, author, Big Questions, Worthy Dreams and Leadership Can Be Taught

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470769331
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 11/16/2010
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 459,190
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Alexander W. Astin is the Allan M. Cartter Professor of Higher Education, emeritus, at the University of California at Los Angeles. A recent study in the Journal of Higher Education identified him as the most-frequently-cited author in the higher education field.

Helen S. Astin is Distinguished Professor emerita of Higher Education and senior scholar in the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Jennifer A. Lindholm is special assistant to the vice provost for undergraduate education at the University of California at Los Angeles and director of the Spirituality in Higher Education project.

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Table of Contents

About the Authors.


1 Why Spirituality Matters.

2 Assessing Spiritual and Religious Qualities.

3 Spiritual Quest: The Search for Meaning and Purpose.

4 Equanimity.

5 Spirituality in Practice: Caring For and About Others.

6 The Religious Life of College Students.

7 Religious Struggle and Skepticism.

8 How Spiritual Growth Affects Educational and Personal Development.

9 Higher Education and the Life of the Spirit.

Appendix: Study Methodology.




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