Spirituality, Purpose, and Meaning in Higher Education

Alexander Astin Audio, Conversations, Education, Perspectives, Spirituality Leave a Comment

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Alexander and Helen Astin are the some of the most widely-quoted authorities in the field of higher education—as Ken alludes early in the dialogue, whenever these two talk it’s generally a good idea to listen. Here they discuss with Ken Wilber some of the conclusions presented in their upcoming book Cultivating the Spirit: How College Can Enhance Students’ Inner Lives, drawing from a national study of third-year college students at 46 diverse colleges and universities. Spiritual development of college students has been largely ignored in our colleges and universities, despite the importance of spiritual matters to young people in their quest to lead integrated lives. While academics are understandably proud of their “outer” accomplishments in the fields of science, medicine, technology, and commerce, colleges and universities have increasingly come to neglect the student’s “inner” development—the sphere of values and beliefs, emotional maturity, spirituality, and self-understanding.

One of the most fascinating trends they’ve noticed is a measurable decline of religiosity–and yet the overall importance students place on spirituality continues to rise:

  • 77% report that they pray
  • 78% discuss religion/spirituality with friends
  • 76% say they are “searching for meaning and purpose in life”
  • 56% report their professors never provide opportunities to discuss the purpose/meaning of life

Listen as Ken, Alexander, and Helen discuss the complex role of spirituality among college students, the important differences between religion and spiritual life, and the effects religion, spirituality, and academics have upon our worldviews and political ideologies.

Alexander Astin

About Alexander Astin

Alexander W. Astin is a leading authority in the field of higher education. He is the Professor Emeritus of Higher Education at the University of California, Los Angeles and Founding Director of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. Dr. Astin has authored 20 books and some 300 other publications in the field of higher education, and has been a recipient of awards for outstanding research from more than a dozen national associations and professional societies.

Helen Astin

About Helen Astin

Helen S. Astin, a psychologist, is Professor Emeritus of Higher Education and Senior Scholar of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. She served as the Associate Provost of the College of Letters and Science at UCLA from 1983 to 1987. A trustee of Mt. St. Mary's College since 1985, Helen Astin served Hampshire College from 1972 to 1979. In the American Psychological Association, Dr. Astin has served on the Boards of Policy and Planning and Education and Training and has been president of the Division of the Psychology of Women. She has also served as Chair of the Board of the American Association for Higher Education.

Ken Wilber

About Ken Wilber

Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.

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