The roots of the Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS) extend back to the fall of 2009 when researchers Dr. Alyssa Rockenbach and Dr. Matt Mayhew received 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 and staff with potential knowledge of the religious and spiritual climate on their campuses were invited to participate in the study, along with third year students who potentially know campus climate and culture. The interview questions for the study were informed by the literature on campus climates; students were asked specifically about their backgrounds, the extent to which they identified with religion and spirituality, and whether they had experienced changes in worldview since coming to college. Students were also asked to reflect on their perceptions of campus climate as well as make meaning of their worldview. The faculty and staff interviews addressed similar questions, but also included a series of items designed to help respondents further reflect on (1) their feelings about and opportunities for spiritual discussions with students; (2) aspects of their campus environment that contribute to religious and spiritual climates; (3) religious and ideological diversity on campus; and (4) ways to facilitate students’ religious and spiritual development.

In 2011, Rockenbach and Mayhew partnered with IFYC to launch a new and expanded line of inquiry focusing on how students experience and engage worldview diversity on their campuses. Findings from their qualitative study were used to develop the questions and subsequent scales comprising the Campus Religious and Spiritual Climate Survey (CRSCS). CRSCS encompasses 94 items that address topics from personal meaning making of religious and spiritual identity to campus climate for different religious and spiritual identities. Over 14,000 students at 60 campuses participated in the project from 2011-2015, and findings revealed that students engage most effectively in safe and enriching environments for students of all backgrounds and walks of life. Additionally the findings captured that student experiences in those environments are associated with positive outcomes. Though many valuable insights emerged from the cross-sectional snapshot of interfaith diversity that CRSCS provides, researchers found themselves asking deeper questions about high impact practices in interfaith work. Specifically, they were interested in identifying high-impact practices for cultivating interfaith learning and appreciation of religious and spiritual diversity. Thus, IDEALS was created using a longitudinal research design to examine student development through the lens of interfaith engagement on college campuses.

Conceptual Model 

Inputs-Environment-Outcomes (I-E-O) Model:

IDEALS is informed by Astin’s (1993) Inputs-Environments-Outcomes Model (I-E-O). The foundational student affairs model is built on notions of student engagement. The model explains the relationship between inputs (the personal set of characteristics with which students enter college), environments (the experiences of students on campus), and outcomes (the end results, products, or produced talents). This model is often used in assessment research to gage what effect campus environments have in mediating certain educational outcomes; it allows the researcher team to identify high impact practices in interfaith work by examining the relationship between students experiences (E) and student outcomes (O).

In order to fully understand the effect of college environments on outcomes, researchers account for the background characteristics with which students (I) enter college and what relationships those inputs have with student behaviors, environmental stimuli, and said outcomes. IDEALS administers a pre-test that asks students to self-report many of these characteristics at the start of college, which includes worldview (religious/spiritual-ideological identity) among other common background characteristics such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. Additional questions also address pre-college attitudes and behaviors toward interworldview engagement – a characteristic whose relationship with postsecondary interfaith engagement we hope to learn more about.

The student experience in IDEALS is captured through survey items asking students about engagement in formal and informal interfaith activities. Formal interfaith activities include structured events and programs such as participation in a joint prayer service or working with students from different worldviews on a service project. Informal interfaith activities include every day interactions with other students, faculty, and staff where religion, spirituality, and/or ideology come up as a part of the conversation. Researchers posit that students’ engagement with interfaith activities helps students develop a favorable orientation to pluralism.

The intended student outcomes include the development of a student’s orientation toward pluralism, the student’s commitment to their own beliefs, and student perceptions of the campus environment as a space for worldview diversity.

  • The survey captures pluralism orientation through survey items that ask students about shared common values, knowledge of different religious traditions, and respect for individuals from various historically marginalized and/or underrepresented backgrounds.
  • The survey captures information about students’ commitment to their own beliefs (self-authored worldview commitment) by asking questions about how their worldview has been informed by interactions with diverse others and learning about other belief systems.
  • The survey captures information about the campus climate for worldview diversity by asking students questions regarding how welcoming the environment is for various forms of discussion related to religion, spirituality, and ideology.

Theoretical Frameworks

Campus Climate for Diversity

The framework was based upon Hurtado, Milem, Clayton-Pederson, and Allen’s (1999) assertion that the climate for diversity is a function of four interrelated elements: the institution’s history of inclusion/exclusion of particular groups; structural diversity (i.e., the proportional representation of diverse groups on campus); opportunities for (and quality of) engagement with diversity (behavioral climate); and individual perceptions of, attitudes toward, and experiences with the environment (psychological climate). The resultant framework included the following components:

  • Historical and contemporary inclusion/exclusion of various worldviews on campus
  • Structural worldview diversity (numerical/proportional representation of different worldview identities on campus)
  • Opportunities to engage others with diverse worldviews (behavioral climate)
  • Quality of interactions with others on campus around issues of spirituality, religion, and ideology (behavioral climate)
  • Religious, spiritual, or ideological conflict on campus (psychological climate)
  • Experience of prejudice/discrimination on the basis of one's worldview (psychological climate)
  • Positive campus climate around issues of spirituality, religion, and ideology (psychological climate)
  • Freedom to express and discuss one's worldview on campus and/or concealment of one's worldview on campus (psychological climate)

Self-authored Worldview Commitment

This framework describes the process by which an individual “creates an internal script for making meaning of his or her beliefs, identity, and relationships with others. The most advanced form of this script may represent a consistency or commitment among religious, spiritual, and ideological beliefs, identities, and relationships; in other words, a self-authored individual would have an informed, critical understanding of his or her worldview, would describe him or herself in ways consistent with such an understanding, and would relate to others in a manner also consistent with that understanding” (Mayhew & Bryant 2013, p. 64).

Interfaith Triangle

Effective interfaith programs facilitate positive meaningful relationships between people from different backgrounds and increase appreciative knowledge of other traditions. Social Science research indicates that knowledge and relationships are the primary drivers of positive attitudes. And people with positive attitudes toward religious diversity will seek more appreciative knowledge and meaningful relationships (Putnam & Campbell, 2010; Patel 2012). Explore the interfaith triangle here.


Pluralism orientation represents the extent to which students are open and accepting of people from religions and/or worldviews that differ from their own (Bryant Rockenbach & Mayhew, 2013).

Ecumenical worldview refers to “the extent to which the student is interested in different religious traditions, seeks to understand other countries and cultures, feels a strong connection to all humanity, and believes that love is at the root of all the great religions” (Astin, Astin, & Lindholm, 2011, p. 24).

Interfaith depicts the engagement of people from diverse traditions, such as Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Secular Humanism, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Baha’i, atheist, agnostic, and all other religious, non-religious, and philosophical traditions. In particular, it refers to intentional experiences, both formal and informal, that facilitate meaningful interaction across worldview difference.

Worldview describes a guiding life philosophy, which may be based on a particular religious tradition, spiritual orientation, non-religious perspective, or some combination of these.

Pluralism involves actively engaging with diversity; moving from tolerance to acceptance of others; recognizing commitment as distinct from, and possible amidst, relativism; and recognizing and appreciating worldview differences as well as commonalities (Eck, 1993).



Astin, A. W. (1993). What matters in college?: Four critical years revisited. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Astin, A. W., Astin, H. S., & Lindholm, J. A. (2011). Cultivating the spirit: How college can enhance students’ inner lives. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 

Bryant Rockenbach, A., & Mayhew, M. J. (2013). How the collegiate religious and spiritual climate shapes students’ ecumenical orientation.Research in Higher Education, 54(4), 461-479. doi: 10.1007/s11162-013-9282-y 

Eck, D.L. (1993).  Encountering God: A spiritual journey from Bozeman to Banaras, MA: Beacon Press. 

Hurtado, S., Milem, J. F., Clayton-Pedersen, A. R., & Allen, W. R. (1999). Enhancing Campus Climates for Racial/Ethnic Diversity: Educational Policy and Practice. Review of Higher Education, 21, 3, 279-302.

Mayhew, M. J., & Bryant Rockenbach, A. (2013). Achievement or arrest? The influence of the 
collegiate religious and spiritual climate on students’ worldview commitment. Research in Higher Education
, 54(1), 63-84. doi: 10.1007/s11162-012-9262-7 

Patel, E. (2012). Sacred ground: Pluralism, prejudice, and the promise of America. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. 

Putnam, R. D., & Campbell, D. E. (2010). American grace: How religion divides and unites us. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.