Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education


Date of this Version



Essays on Teaching Excellence: Toward the Best in the Academy (2007-2008) 19(6)

A publication of the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education


Copyright 2008, Allison Pingree. Used by permission


landscape is provoking a heightened focus on spirituality and religion in the academy. For example, UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute (HERI), best known as the administrators of the CIRP Freshman Survey for over 40 years, is conducting a major research project, Spirituality in Higher Education (, drawing data from over 112,000 students and 40,000 faculty at over 420 institutions. Defining spirituality in broad strokes (as the “interior” and “subjective” aspects of our lives, that which reflects the “values and ideals that we hold most dear,” gives us “meaning and purpose,” and invokes “inspiration, creativity, the mysterious, the sacred, and the mystical”), the project’s reports show that significant majorities of both students and faculty place a high priority on cultivating such qualities within the academy. For example, a large majority (74%) of students are searching for meaning and purpose of life, and believe that college should play a strong role in this development: more than two-thirds see it as essential or very important that their college enhances their self-understanding, and almost half say it is essential or very important for their college to encourage their personal expression of spirituality. Results from faculty show a similar interest in spirituality: 81% consider themselves to be spiritual persons, and 69% actively seek opportunities for spiritual development; a majority of faculty believes that enhancing students’ self-understanding (60%), developing moral character (59%) and helping students develop personal values (53%) are essential or very important goals of an undergraduate education.