Spiritual development is also enhanced by practices that are currently used infrequently by colleges and universities: self-reflection, meditation, and contemplation.
undergraduates are provided with opportunities to experience multiple perspectives and diverse peoples and cultures
through interdisciplinary studies, service-learning, inter-racial
interaction, student organizations, and study abroad activities.
Spiritual development is also facilitated when faculty members
use “student-centered” approaches in the classroom, when
there is frequent faculty-student interaction outside the classroom, and when faculty directly encourage students to explore
questions of meaning and purpose or to discuss religious/
spiritual matters. virtually all forms of charitable involvement—participation in community service, donating money
to charity, and helping friends with personal problems—
promote spiritual growth. Finally, spiritual development is
also enhanced by practices that are currently used infrequently
by colleges and universities: self-reflection, meditation, and
contemplation. These practices directly encourage students to
explore their inner lives.
Higher education institutions, and particularly student
affairs professionals, can pursue a number of initiatives to
help create a culture to better assist students in their search for
meaning and purpose:
• Provide opportunities for discussions about issues of
meaning and purpose during student orientation and
other programming initiatives.
• Establish places for reflection and quiet dialogue
• Incorporate discussions of spirituality in living and
learning communities and residence halls.
• Host guest speakers and forums to encourage discussion
on big questions.
• Create professional development programs to prepare faculty, staff, and peer leaders to participate in and facilitate
discussions on spiritual issues.
The findings of this study constitute a powerful argument
that supports the proposition that higher education should
pay greater attention to students’ spiritual development. By
helping students grow spiritually, colleges and universities will
help create a new generation of young adults who are more
caring, more globally aware, and more committed to social
justice than previous generations. These students will be able
to employ greater equanimity in responding to the many
stresses and tensions of our rapidly changing technological
Alexander W. Astin is the Allan M. Carter Professor Emeritus of Higher
Education at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and
founding director of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA.
Helen S. Astin, a psychologist, is distinguished Professor Emeritus of Higher
Education and senior scholar at the Higher Education Research Institute
Meet the authors
Alexander and Helen Astin will present their findings at
the 2011 NASPA Annual Conference on tuesday, march 15,
from 8:30 to 9:45 a.m. Visit www.naspa.org/conf/ for more