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IDEALS Research Awards Recipients

The following individuals or teams received awards to conduct original research using IDEALS data. Each of the below award recipients presented on their findings in September 2018 at the IDEALS research symposium in Atlanta, Georgia. Awards were made possible through the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Project Title: Examining the Worldview Influences of Non-Religious Students

  • Christopher P. Scheitle, Assistant Professor of Sociology, West Virginia University

Project Description: One of the more dramatic social developments in the United States in the past thirty years has been the sharp increase in individuals who do not identify with a religion. However, the absence of a religious identity does not mean that a person lacks a worldview. Instead, it is likely that religiously unaffiliated individuals point to other influences as shaping their worldview. The Interfaith Diversity Experiences & Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS) included innovative questions that could provide insight into the worldview influences of non-religious individuals and how these influences compare to religious individuals.

This project aims to address three questions: 1) How do the worldview influences of non-religious students compare to the worldview influences of religious students? 2) How do the patterns of worldview influences differ across sub-categories of non-religious students (e.g., agnostic, atheist, nonreligious, no religion, secular humanist)? 3) How does a shift from a religious to non-religious identity, or vice versa, correspond to shifts in worldview influences?

Christopher P. Scheitle is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at West Virginia University. His research examines a variety of issues related to religion in the United States, including attitudes towards religion and science, discrimination against and victimization of religious individuals and organizations, religion and sexuality, and the organizational structure of religion. His most recent book, co-authored with Elaine Howard Ecklund, is Religion vs. Science: What Religious People Really Think (2017, Oxford University Press).

Project Title: The Many Faces of Evangelicalism: Identifying Subgroups Using Latent Class Analysis

  • Steven L. Lancaster, Associate Professor of Psychology, Bethel University
  • Marion H. Larson, Professor and Co-Chair of English, Bethel University
  • Joel D. Frederickson, Professor and Chair of Psychology, Associate Dean of Assessment and Accreditation, Bethel University

Project Description: Several authors have observed that the term “evangelical” represents a group with surprising diversity. Despite this observation, the term continues to be used as if evangelicals were a relatively homogenous group. Recognizing that evangelicals are a heterogeneous group, we will focus our analysis on the students who self-identify as “evangelical” in the IDEALS survey. This survey shows that there is a wide range of attitudes and behaviors within those who self-identify as “evangelical,” so we will use latent class analysis to identify relevant subgroups of these students. This analysis will also help to determine how group members may differ from each other on a range of personal and campus climate variables.

The identified subgroups of evangelicals will lead to valuable information as we seek to understand both the first-year interfaith experiences of students as well as the campus conditions that might influence these experiences. Information about these subgroup variations will also help us examine possible differences in student response regarding campus climate, as well as their involvement (or lack of involvement) in interfaith activities.

This study will enhance empirical research of evangelicals by enabling researchers to more accurately classify and study the varied groups of individuals under this broad banner. Such a classification will also help further refine the question of “who is an evangelical” by enabling us to identify those from other Christian denominations or traditions who may not self-identify as evangelical but whose beliefs and practices show them to have much in common with some evangelical subgroups. Enhanced understanding of evangelicals can provide important empirical evidence that enables educators to shape and implement the sort of productive exchanges across worldview difference that are central to student development.

Steven L. Lancaster is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Bethel University in St. Paul, MN. His research focuses on predictors of stress and resilience after traumatic, stressful, or morally injurious experiences. His particular area of study is the role of identity, meaning, and religious functioning on these outcomes. In collaboration with students and fellow faculty members, his work uses advanced statistical methods to better understand the underlying nature of constructs and to better understand the complex relationships between these variables.

Marion H. Larson (PhD University of Minnesota) is Professor and Co-Chair of English at Bethel University in St. Paul, MN. She has served as a visiting scholar and sat on the board of directors for the Collaboration for the Advancement of College Teaching and Learning. She also served six years as the arts and humanities editor for Christian Scholar’s Review, and has written on interfaith dialogue, faculty development, and hospitality as a metaphor for teaching. With co-author Sara L. H. Shady, she has written several articles on interfaith engagement, From Bubble to Bridge: Educating Christians for a Multifaith World (IVP Academic, 2017), and a chapter for Toward a Field of Interfaith Studies (Beacon, forthcoming fall 2018).

Joel D. Frederickson is Professor and Chair of Psychology at Bethel University in St. Paul, MN. He also serves as the Associate Dean of Assessment and Accreditation. Much of Frederickson’s scholarship is centered on how students change during their time in college. This includes assessing the impact of study abroad experiences on dogmatism, ethnocultural empathy, anti-intellectualism, spiritual growth, and need for cognition. Additionally, Frederickson administers and analyzes data from the Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus (CLA+), the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), the Student Satisfaction Inventory (SSI), and the CIRP Freshman survey. Frederickson heads Bethel’s accreditation processes with their regional accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), and also serves as a Peer Evaluator for HLC. He received his Masters and Doctorate in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in Social Psychology from the University of Minnesota.

Project Title: Muslim Student Experiences with Campus Insensitivity and Negative Interworldview Engagement: Variation by Race, Citizenship, and Campus Environments

  • Shafiqa Ahmadi, Associate Clinical Professor and Co-Director of the Center for Education, Identity and Social Justice, Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California
  • Darnell Cole, Associate Professor and Co-Director of the Center for Education, Identity and Social Justice, Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California
  • Jude Paul Matias Dizon, Doctoral Student, Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California

Project Description: The proposed study will add a fifth dimension to religious and spiritual campus climate: the organizational/structural feature (Milem, Chang, & antonio, 2004). Based on studies linking diversity with the reduction of racial bias (Chang, 2001, 2002), Milem, Chang, and Antonio (2004) suggest that “institutional conditions that promote diversity may by themselves improve race relations, irrespective of a student’s level of interest in and engagement with diversity” (p. 12).

Similarly, we seek to understand how institutional context fosters or inhibits an inclusive environment for religious minorities, specifically Muslim students. While previous research has captured student attitudes and engagement with diversity opportunities and interactions across difference, we are interested in how campus climate may mitigate or reduce negative, hostile interactions. This study intends to delineate how features of religious and spiritual campus climate affect the prevalence of religious hostility at the institutional-level as well as examine differences among students by religion, race/ethnicity, and nationality.

Shafiqa Ahmadi is an Associate Clinical Professor and Co-Director of the Center for Education, Identity and Social Justice at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California​. She is an expert on diversity and legal protection of underrepresented students, including female Muslims, bias and hate crimes, and sexual assault survivors.

Darnell Cole is an Associate Professor and Co-Director of the Center for Education, Identity and Social Justice at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California​. His areas of research include race/ethnicity, diversity, college student experiences, and learning.

Jude Paul Matias Dizon is a doctoral student and the University of Southern California’s Provost’s Fellow in the Urban Education Policy Program at the Rossier School of Education. His research interests include campus climate, racial equity, and postsecondary attainment among underrepresented populations.

Project Title: The Role of College Experiences in the Development of Self-Authored Worldview Commitment for First-Year STEM Students

  • Tiffani Riggers-Piehl, Assistant Professor; Educational Leadership, Policy, and Foundations School of Education, University of Missouri, Kansas City
  • Kathleen J. Lehman, Postdoctoral Scholar and Associate Director: Building, Recruiting, and Inclusion for Diversity (BRAID) Research Initiative University of California, Los Angeles
  • Emily Sandvall, Associate Director of Undergraduate Programs, School of Engineering and Computer Science Baylor University

Project Description: The increasing need for skilled workers in science and technology fields has encouraged a focus on recruitment and retention of students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), with a focus on reducing long-standing gender and race/ethnicity gaps in participation and retention. Most of the efforts to bring parity to STEM fields focus on the development of students’ “hard skills,” such as technical ability and academic performance. Meanwhile there tends to be a lack of focus on students’ “soft skills” such as leadership, caring and compassion, and development of spirituality or a spiritual worldview. STEM students’ spiritual development is particularly understudied in higher education, specifically the way that students within STEM develop a spiritual or worldview commitment, and how their experiences within STEM may foster or hinder the development of that commitment.

Using Science Identity Theory and a multilevel modeling approach, this study will expand our understanding of how STEM students encounter and develop aspects of spirituality while in their first-year of college, with a specific focus on the development of a committed spiritual identity or worldview. The project will investigate what differences exist by STEM sub-field and between STEM students and their non-STEM peers, closely examining differences by gender and race/ethnicity. This study supplements the literature on diversity in STEM by exploring aspects of spirituality and worldview commitment to better understand what collegiate experiences help students in STEM majors develop their spiritual identities. With its additional focus on STEM students by major, gender, and race/ethnicity, this study provides many avenues to improve the experience of students in STEM, and thus narrow gaps in participation and retention, while expanding our scholarly understanding of the relationship between STEM major and worldview development.

Tiffani Riggers-Piehl is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education at University of Missouri, Kansas City. Her research emphasizes the role of spirituality in the lives of college students, with examinations into student-faculty interactions and spiritual outcomes, spirituality and grieving, and the interfaith experiences of students in college. Dr. Riggers-Piehl’s research interests also include the experience of women in STEM and the role of spirituality for students in STEM. Her professional background includes work in both student affairs and academic affairs with a focus on assessment, training, and development. She completed her Ph.D. in Education at UCLA in the Higher Education and Organizational Change program in 2013, later serving as a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA studying undergraduate women’s enrollment in STEM and at NYU studying students’ interfaith experiences on campus.

Kathleen Lehman serves as the Associate Director for BRAID Research at UCLA. She recently completed her Ph.D. in Higher Education and Organizational Change at UCLA where her dissertation focused on the experiences of undecided students in introductory computing courses. Her research interests include gender issues in higher education, women and underrepresented minority students in STEM fields (particularly computer science), and co-curricular learning experiences for STEM students. Dr. Lehman holds a master’s in Higher Education and Student Affairs from The Ohio State University and a bachelor’s degree in French from Miami University.

Emily Sandvall is the Associate Director for Undergraduate Programs in the School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) at Baylor University in Waco, TX. In her role, she coordinates the school’s recruitment efforts, new student experience initiatives, and student leadership opportunities in addition to shaping student success and retention programs specifically for current ECS students. Over the past five years, Emily has worked specifically to secure funding to support programming, resources, and networking opportunities for women in ECS, an underrepresented population in these majors. Her passion for working with college students began as she was pursuing her undergraduate degree at Baylor University in Health Science. After completing her master’s degree in College Student Affairs at Azusa Pacific University, Emily worked in New Student Programs at Southern Methodist University and Baylor University before making the leap to academic affairs.

Project Title: Social Class and Diversity

  • Ilana Horwitz, Stanford University PhD Candidate, Sociology of Education & Jewish Studies
  • Abiya Ahmed, Stanford University PhD Candidate, Education & Jewish Studies Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies
  • Ari Y Kelman, Jim Joseph Professor of Education and Jewish Studies, Interim Director, Taube Center for Jewish Studies, Associate Director of BJPA @ Stanford, Stanford Graduate School of Education

Project Description: This project examines the relationship between social class and attitudes toward religious worldviews and diversity. Although many U.S. colleges promote interfaith and diversity engagement opportunities for students, are all students equally interested in these opportunities? If not, what mediates their interest? One possibility is that attitudes on diversity and religious pluralism are a function of social class. Even though the positive correlation between SES and cultural capital is well-known, and we also know that social class shapes much of the student college experience, we know little about how class and class inequality affects students’ religious worldviews and interfaith experiences. In this study, we take a sociological perspective to examine students’ religious worldviews and their proclivity towards pluralism during their freshmen year of college. Since high SES youth are more likely to have had opportunities for diverse experiences prior to college (e.g. travel, extracurriculars), we hypothesize that they, compared to lower SES students, will have not only a stronger commitment to their own religious worldview, but also to interfaith engagement with those who have diverse worldviews. Our study is based on survey data from 7,194 students across 122 colleges who participated in the Interfaith Diversity Experiences & Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS). Using multi-level, random effects models with students nested in universities, we examine students’ initial religious worldviews and pluralism orientation, as well as how their view and interfaith engagement in and out of class changes during their first year of college.

Ilana Horwitz is a doctoral candidate in Sociology of Education at the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University. Ilana conducts mixed methods research to examine the intersection of sociology, education, and religion. Her dissertation shows how religious dispositions shape adolescents’ academic achievement in school and their pathways through college. She argues that religion should be taken seriously as factor that can facilitate and hinder educational success. In her other research, Ilana investigates how race, religion, and social class shape students’ experiences on college campuses, how social contexts shape identity development, and how families make decisions about children’s Jewish education. Ilana holds a Masters in Sociology from Stanford, a Masters in International Education from Teachers College at Columbia University, and a Bachelors in Business Administration from Emory University. Ilana is a fellow at the Wexner Foundation and at the Institute for Education Sciences. Prior to Stanford, Ilana worked for eight years in management consulting, education research, and program evaluation. She has also worked as a teacher and mentor in a variety of underserved communities.

Abiya Ahmed is a doctoral candidate at the Graduate School of Education (GSE) at Stanford University. She studies the intersection of religion and education, and is affiliated with the Education and Jewish Studies concentration and with the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies at Stanford. Abiya is interested in using interdisciplinary approaches to understand how individuals and communities learn and interact with religion in formal and informal spaces, with special attention to Muslim and Jewish contexts. Her qualifying paper was an ethnographic study of an Islamic high school, which used anthropological and sociological approaches to examine the “religious” at a religious school. Currently, she is researching how first-year college students form friendship networks, focusing on how racial, ethnic, and religious identities affect and are affected by these networks. Abiya has a Bachelor’s in Mass Communication from the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, and a Master’s in Islamic Studies from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Prior to Stanford, she taught middle school English and Islamic Studies for six years at a private Islamic school in the Bay Area.

Ari Y Kelman is the inaugural holder of the Jim Joseph Professorship in Education and Jewish Studies in the Stanford Graduate School of Education, where he is the interim director of the Concentration in Education and Jewish Studies and is serving as the Director of the Taube Center for Jewish Studies. He holds a courtesy appointment in Religious Studies, and is a faculty affiliate of the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and the American Studies Program. He is the author of a few books about American Jewish life and culture, including Station Identification: A Cultural History of Yiddish Radio and Sacred Strategies: Transforming Synagogues from Functional to Visionary. And he publishes regularly about contemporary Jewish life in venues both scholarly and popular. His research revolves around the ongoing exploration of how people learn to develop religious sensibilities, and it has taken him to church, to Krakow, Poland, to many many b’nai mitzvah, and deep into the archives of religious music of the early 1970s.

Project Title: Trans Appreciative Attitudes and Worldview Campus Engagement

  • Kate Curley, Doctoral Candidate, Eastern Michigan University

Project Description: Discrimination against trans and gender non-conforming (GNC) identified students and people is still a well-documented national issue. Furthermore, the number of out trans/GNC identified students has steadily increased in the past decade. While some intersectional approaches to inclusion have been done, discussions on worldviews are often dichotomous to discussions on trans/GNC inclusion. Recent research demonstrates that experiences of discrimination and marginalization in one’s worldview community can lead people who are trans/GNC to leave or reject their worldview and to experience significant negative psychological responses due to this discord. Grounded in campus climate research and highlighting the importance of one’s environment and on-campus experiences, I am exploring the impact of worldview campus experiences on trans appreciative attitudes. I will also explore if there are significant differences in the levels of trans appreciation in relation to worldviews and if the worldview experiences perhaps affect one’s appreciation of trans individuals differently based on one’s trans/GNC or bi-gendered identity. Using principles of critical quantitative analysis and considerations of small sample sizes, different inferential analyses will be used to complete both whole sample and gender-specific simplified sample analyses. The research has implications for further intersectional research in trans appreciative attitudes and worldviews as well as practical implications for campuses to promote more trans inclusive campus climates.

Kate Curley is currently a scholar-practitioner working in Campus Life and pursuing her doctorate at Eastern Michigan University in Educational Leadership. Their research interests are in the intersections of gender identity and religious, secular, and spiritual experiences, promoting inclusion through practical applications, trans and queer studies, leadership development, and multiple intersections of identities and communities. Kate has had more than 8 years’ experience working in student affairs at a variety of colleges and universities and has been teaching a class they created on Multicultural Leadership Experience at Eastern for the past three years. Prior to coming to Eastern Michigan University, Kate did their M.Ed. in College Student Affairs at The Pennsylvania State University and their B.A. in Human Development with minors in Women and Gender Studies and Philosophy at Boston College.

Project Title: The Transformative Power of Religious Coursework?: Exploring Student Expectations and Attitudes about Religious Diversity and Interreligious Cooperation for Positive Social Change

  • Kate Daley-Bailey, Academic Advisor II, University of Georgia
  • Robert Foster, Lecturer in Religion and New Testament, Department of Religion, University of Georgia
  • Joshua Patterson, Doctoral Candidate, Institute of Higher Education, University of Georgia

Project Description: One of the major aims of liberal education in colleges and universities is to model and teach respectful deliberation across differences. College courses that address the topic of religion are one of the places where college students can engage in these difficult but important conversations. While many religion professors hold this value of respectful deliberation, and pursue it in their coursework, there has been limited work that connects this to student outcomes, or combines student attributes and outcomes to build a more a systematic understanding of student experiences before, during, and after college religion courses.

This study will investigate what pre-college factors might influence students’ likelihood to take religion courses and which factors have the largest impact on their pre-college responses with respect to 1) appreciative knowledge of, 2) positive attitudes towards, and 3) action-oriented relationships with individuals from different spiritual and religious backgrounds and finally, test the effect of religion coursework on these outcomes. These first questions of pre-college factors are crucial in building an understanding of the inputs of college religion courses, and the broader religious context of college campuses. The question related to the impact of religion coursework tests one of the foundational assumptions of the discipline of religion and of addressing religion in liberal education. One key goal of this study is to add to the growing body of literature on teaching and learning in religious studies and provide hard data with which to ground these often-philosophical discussions. As a relatively young discipline in higher education, and with a complicated relationship to vocational religious programs and the broader religious context of American higher education, the discipline of religion is still negotiating much of its identity and the shape of curriculum and methodology for undergraduate education, and data sets like IDEALS and this research will provide foundations for important discussions.

Kate Daley-Bailey received her A.B. (2001) and M.A. (2004) degrees in Religion from the University of Georgia. She has taught Religion courses at the collegiate level for the last ten years at Georgia State University, Georgia Perimeter College, and the University of Georgia. As of 2014, she left adjunct teaching and is now a full-time academic advisor at the University of Georgia. As an academic advisor at a Research I institution where Religion is an academic discipline, Daley-Bailey is interested in studying what expectations first year students have about studying religion in the classroom as well as the effects religion courses have on first year students’ worldviews. As a proponent of the developmental advising approach, in which students work with their advisors to choose majors and minors, select courses, explore academic resources and personal development opportunities, her goal is to use the results gleamed from IDEALS data to better understand first year students’ expectations, motivations, as well as any notable effects which result from engaging religious and cultural diversity in an academic setting.

Robert Foster is Lecturer in Religion and New Testament at the University of Georgia, where he has taught since 2013. Prior to coming to UGA, Foster taught at Abilene Christian University, Southern Methodist University, and Texas Christian University. His research and teaching interests include comparative religious ethics, cultural studies of religion, ethics of the New Testament, biblical theology, and Christianity and racial justice. Foster co-directs the 2017-2018 Religion and the Common Good Seminar at the University of Georgia, along with Josh Patterson. He teaches an introductory course on Judaism, Christianity, & Islam as well as a course on Religious Thought, with a focus on how religious worldviews influence ethical decisions. Foster received the UGA Black Male Leadership Society Faculty Member of the Year award for 2015-2016. He is active within the Athens community and North Georgia in partnerships focused on racial justice and the rights of undocumented immigrants.

Joshua Patterson is a doctoral student at the University of Georgia’s Institute of Higher Education studying organizational change and decision making, particularly with respect to the humanities and religious studies in higher education. These research interests evolved out of his B.A. and M.A. in Religious Studies. Patterson currently serves as a graduate assistant to the Governor’s Teaching Fellows program hosting yearlong and summer faculty development symposia. Additionally, Patterson has served as an organizational researcher and consultant for offices at UGA that serve teaching and learning, and student success. Along with Robert Foster, Patterson received a grant to organize a seminar series on religion and the common good. This series and past work by Patterson and Foster seeks to create spaces for students, faculty, staff, and community members to discuss the topic of religion and the common good, and facilitate dialogue across differences through diverse and intersectional topics as well as speakers representing different traditions and identities. Patterson has presented research related to learning goals in religious studies and the role of religious studies faculty in student identity formation, and served as a student editor on a volume of the Education Law and Policy Review focusing on church and state law in education.

Project Title: Understanding the Influence of Interfaith Engagement on Religious Identity, Interfaith Leadership/Service, and Global Citizenship for LGBQ Students

  • Ashley Jones, Doctoral Candidate, The University of Texas at Austin
  • Christina Zavala, Doctoral Student, The University of California, Los Angeles
  • Christy Cobb, Assistant Professor of Religion, Wingate University

Project Description: For many students, college is often the first time that students start to make their own personal decisions about their religious identities. For LGBQ students in particular, this may mark a distressing time as they try to navigate their faith/spirituality and sexual orientation. As noted by other scholars, literature on sexual orientation and faith remains relatively non-existent. Using the Multicontextual Model for Diverse Learning Environments and queer theory to understand the role of context in identity development and students’ campus experiences, this study examines longitudinal data from the IDEALS project to understand ways in which religious/spiritual identification potentially shift after the first year of college for LGBQ students. Furthermore, we are interested in capturing those elements that LGBQ students perceive as being most influential to their worldview and to what extent these change after their first year in college. In addition, this study proposes to investigate factors related to interfaith engagement that influence LGBQ students’ propensity for interfaith leadership/service and global citizenship. We plan to employ a combination of paired-sample t-tests, analysis of variance (ANOVA), and a multivariate linear regression model.

Ashley Jones is a doctoral candidate in the Program in Higher Education Leadership at The University of Texas at Austin. She received her B.S. in Business Administration from Georgetown College and M.Ed. in College Student Personnel from the University of Louisville. Prior to beginning her doctoral journey, Ashley worked in Residence Life at Wake Forest University and has a background working in several functional areas of student affairs. Ashley’s research interests focus on exploring the intersections of sexual orientation and spirituality/faith identities of LGBQ-identified undergraduate students and their student experiences and organizational leadership.

Christina Zavala is a doctoral student in the Higher Education and Organizational Change program at the University of California, Los Angeles. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin as a double major in Psychology and Spanish and her master’s degree from Texas State University from the Student Affairs in Higher Education. Christina’s research interests include understanding the role of familial involvement and support for Latina college students and the ways in which students, particularly students of color and other underrepresented identities, experience their campus environments.

Christy Cobb is Assistant Professor of Religion at Wingate University in North Carolina. She holds a PhD from Drew University in Biblical Studies where she focused on New Testament and Early Christianity with a concentration in Women and Gender Studies. Every semester at Wingate University, Christy introduces first-year students to critical thinking and global perspectives through an introductory course in biblical literature. Her research interests include Women, Gender, and Sexuality in the Bible and Christianity, Slavery in the Greco-Roman world, and Ancient Fiction in Judaism, Christianity, and the Greco-Roman world. In addition to serving on the steering committee of the Ancient Fiction section of the Society of Biblical Literature, Christy is a member of the editorial board for the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. She is currently working on her first book, which is a feminist analysis of female slaves in Luke-Acts and other ancient narratives.

Project Title: Using Secularization Research to Predict Religious Growth

  • Simon G. Brauer, Ph.D. candidate; Department of Sociology, Duke University

Project Description: Much of the sociological research on religion in higher education has focused on education’s role in the weakening of students’ religious convictions. These earlier pieces of research focused on the characteristics of college campuses that made them agents of secularization, including their pluralistic student body, the oftentimes secular orientation of academic life and college pursuits, and the removal of students from established sources of social support in religious communities. However, the current body of research suggests college students are not becoming less religious in large or uniform ways.

While contemporary scholars have contributed to more nuanced understandings of religious decline in college, very few researchers have focused on who, if anyone, grows in their religious convictions and in what ways (Alexander W. Astin being a notable exception). This may partly be a result of the limited data that has been collected on college students’ religious convictions beyond common measures such as frequency of service attendance, frequency of prayer, and self-rated religiosity. These scholars have refined previous theories of religious decline and developed new ones about religious stability which are relevant to questions about religious growth.

The IDEALS data presents a unique opportunity to test whether these theories might also predict who experiences religious growth in college. My research agenda encompasses three questions. First, who (if anyone) experiences religious growth in college? Second, are students more likely to be religiously engaged and grow if colleges afford ample and diverse opportunities to be religiously involved? And third, can institutional identity and values reinforce religious convictions? Specifically, if universities espouse clear moral frameworks, are students more likely to be religiously engaged?

Simon Brauer is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Duke University. Simon’s research interests include intergenerational transmission of religion, secularization, and religion in higher education. Specifically, his research addresses such questions as, “Does college major predict religiosity later in life?” “How have the number of congregations in the US changed over time?” and “Do the US and Europe appear to be going through a similar process of religious decline across cohorts?” He has been published (or has been accepted to be published) in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Sociology of Religion, Southern Medical Journal, and Journal of Medical Ethics. He also helps lead “The Role of Catholic Campus Ministries in the Formation of Young Adults,” a project within the Bass Connections program at Duke University.

Project Title: What Works? Co-Curricular Engagement and the Role of Worldview Influence on Indices of Pluralism Orientation for First-Generation College Students

  • Ayesha Delpish, Associate Professor of Statistics, Elon University
  • Kimberly Q. Fath, Assistant Director for Assessment, Elon University
  • Janet Fuller, University Chaplain and Lecturer, Elon University

Project Description: Research has demonstrated that development of a pluralism orientation in college students can be influenced through curricular and co-curricular experiences in the college context, and that institutional-level factors such as the type of institution also have an effect on this development. Some of this research has centered on students with (or without) a specific worldview or spiritual orientation, testing assumptions that students with differing characteristics will also have different predictors of pluralism orientation.

Our study seeks to identify the predictors of the indices of pluralism orientation for students who are first in their family to attend college. Research suggests first-generation college students are demographically and qualitatively different from their peers and that there are differences in their documented and self-reported engagement in academic and social experiences while in college. One such example of these differences is that they can be less likely to engage in co-curricular experiences and therefore may not receive full benefit of the learning that can occur in the co-curricular context.

Using the Time 1 and Time 2 IDEALS data, we plan to construct a series of hierarchical linear models for each of the indices in pluralism orientation: 1) global citizenship; 2) goodwill/acceptance; 3) appreciating interreligious commonalities and differences; and 4) commitment to interfaith leadership service. These models will identify the “high impact” interfaith practices for first-generation college students. Results of this study contribute to our general understanding of the indices of pluralism in the college context and may provide actionable information to interfaith practitioners on how best to meet the needs of first-generation college students on their campus.

Ayesha Delpish holds a Ph.D. in Statistics from Florida State University. She specializes in educational measurement & testing, and multivariate statistics, including Hierarchical Linear Modeling, Item-Response Theory, and related quantitative methods.

Kimberly Fath earned her Ph.D. in Higher Education from Loyola University Chicago. At Elon University, she manages institutional survey assessments and data analyses and provides consultation and support on assessment practice for the purpose of improvement. Her dissertation focused on the reporting practices associated with studies using hierarchical linear modeling in higher education research journals. Kim is a former project associate of the Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership.

Jan Fuller holds a Doctor of Ministry from Wesley Theological Seminary and a Master of Divinity from Yale University. Her work at Elon University has been to build a multi-faith center, staff, and program for undergraduate students. She has specialized training in student development, faith development, and young adult patterns of bereavement.