Finding Faith in the Academy: Religious Exploration as a High-Impact Practice for Quarterlife Students
This thesis argues for the inclusion of religious exploration among the commonly accepted list of high impact practices at institutions of higher education. In the last decade, colleges and universities have turned to high impact practices to bolster positive student outcomes in retention, graduation, campus involvement, and deep learning. In its basic forms, religion and spirituality have always been one way that humans have made sense of our most elemental questions: Who am I? What is the purpose of my life? At a time when faith and religion have become wedded to increasingly narrow ideological and political positions, student affairs professionals and educators are in a unique position to reclaim the meaning-making power of religious stories and help students examine their fundamental assumptions about their identities and purpose.
To this end, I examine high impact practices as transformational experiences, and discuss how both general religious literacy and individual religious practice transform a student’s college experience and their life beyond. Using scholarly personal narrative, I recount my own quarterlife religious exploration and contrast that experience with what we know about how college students approach faith and religion today. Finally, I make specific recommendations about how to incorporate religious and spiritual learning in our curriculum and open a campus dialogue about faith and its role in the meaning-making endeavors of our quarterlife students.