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Research Projects

The history of IDEALS extends back to Fall 2009, when Drs. Alyssa Rockenbach and Matt Mayhew began a study of religion, spirituality, and campus climate supported by a Faculty Research and Professional Development grant from North Carolina State University. Their initial project included a series of 27 interviews in four distinct institutional contexts (including a private research university, a public research university, a community college, and a women’s college). Faculty, staff, and third-year students with potential knowledge of the religious and spiritual climate on their campuses were invited to participate in qualitative interviews. The interview protocols included questions about worldview development, opportunities for fostering students’ religious and spiritual development, campus climate perceptions, and religious and worldview diversity on campus. Findings from this qualitative study were ultimately used to develop items and scales for the Campus Religious and Spiritual Climate Survey, or CRSCS.



In 2011, Rockenbach and Mayhew partnered with IFYC to launch CRSCS, a tool for assessing how students experience and engage religious and worldview diversity on their campuses. CRSCS encompassed 94 items on topics ranging from one’s religious and spiritual meaning-making to the perceived campus climate for individuals with different worldview identities. Over 14,000 students at 61 campuses participated in CRSCS from 2011-2015, and findings revealed that students engage most effectively across worldview differences in safe and welcoming collegiate environments. Additionally, studies using CRSCS data suggested that positive aspects of the religious and spiritual climate are associated with many desirable student outcomes.

While CRSCS offered many valuable insights with respect to religious and worldview diversity in college, its cross-sectional design left some questions unanswered. Researchers found themselves seeking more information about high-impact practices for cultivating interfaith learning and development among students. Thus, IDEALS was created to build upon the foundation of research that CRSCS established.



IDEALS was developed by refining existing items and scales from CRSCS and adding additional theoretically-grounded questions. The longitudinal design allowed researchers to accurately capture the impact of the college environment on students’ interfaith learning and development. As such, IDEALS was informed by Astin’s (1993) Input-Environment-Output (I-E-0) Model, and the survey is organized according to this framework. The instrument was piloted in 2014 and IDEALS was fully launched in 2015. More than 20,000 students at 122 colleges and universities across the U.S. participated in IDEALS from 2015-2019. Findings from the full study are available in a newly published report, IDEALS: Bridging Religious Divides through Higher Education.

IDEALS is made possible by several funders including The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Fetzer Institute, and the Julian Grace Foundation.



Most recently, Rockenbach and Mayhew collaborated with IFYC to develop the Values, Interfaith Engagement, and Worldview Survey (VIEWS). Although the VIEWS instrument was largely derived from IDEALS, the two surveys have slightly different foci. While IDEALS was designed primarily as a research instrument to longitudinally examine college impact on interfaith learning and development, VIEWS serves primarily as a climate assessment, replacing CRSCS as a newer and more refined tool for measuring how students perceive and engage with religious and worldview diversity on their campuses. VIEWS’ inaugural administration took place in Spring 2018; it will be available to institutions biannually. For more information, email survey@ifyc.org.