Book by Katherine Grace Hendrix and Janice D. Hamlet
Review by Jean C. Fulton
Landmark College, Putney VT
This volume is notable perhaps as much for its approach as its subject matter. In each of ten short essays, professors of communication focus on personal experience to investigate spirituality in higher education. The methodology is autoethnography. Described by Ellis and Bochner (2000) as “an autobiographical genre of writing and research that displays multiple layers of consciousness, connecting the personal to the cultural,” autoethnography moves back and forth as authors focus “outward on social and cultural aspects of their personal experience; then, they look inward, exposing a vulnerable self that is moved by and may move through, refract, and resist cultural interpretations” (p. 739). Not merely qualitative as distinct from quantitative, this study offers readers unexpected ways of knowing, reflecting more expanded levels of awareness than are typically drawn upon in traditional approaches to Western education.
However, this is not a touchy-feely book. In fact, editors Katherine Hendrix and Janice Hamlet explain that the project began in reaction to the “unconventional, and to some extent shocking, ways” (p. 3) that presenters were discussing spirituality at communication conferences. Their book defines spirituality as “feeling the presence of a higher power and tapping into that power” (p. 3). The authors – all Christian professors – focus on spirituality as a felt-sense within rather than an overt presence in the classroom, and their narratives are likely to interest readers from various perspectives who want to connect inner and outer in their own teaching. Advisors are in a position to especially appreciate much of what is investigated, such as creating opportunities through which others can grow, the power of serendipitous interactions, engendering trust through listening, and so on.
Essays range from reflection on prayer life to the relationship between research and personal ethics (involving a ride-along with a police officer), from consideration of the mentor-mentee relationship to stewardship in a secular classroom. Of particular note is “Spirituality Then and Now: Our Journey Through Higher Education as Women of Faith.” Acknowledging that professors are expected to keep their religious faith out of the classroom, its authors challenge the idea that spirituality should be similarly banned, adhering to “the fundamental belief that spirituality is a core aspect of identity…Just as we cannot ignore the impact that our gendered and racial selves (for example) have on our classroom presence, we cannot separate or divide ourselves from our spiritual self and its impact” (p. 85).
With students, advisors appreciate the complexity of being human. Call it soul, call it spirit, we see potential in students – which they may not yet see – and strive to structure experiences through which a greater vision becomes apparent. Despite reminders in NACADA’s Statement of Core Values, advisors may be less likely to focus on deeper levels of reality in their own lives, never mind consider this part of the advising equation. Advisors hear other people’s stories. We don’t so often tell our own, at least not in academic publications. In addition to providing substantial food for thought, this book may encourage some of us to do just that.
NACADA. (2005). NACADA statement of core values of academic advising. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/Core-Values.htm
Ellis, C., & Bochner, A. P. (2000). Autoethnography, personal narrative, reflexivity: Researcher as subject. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.). Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 733-768). London: Sage Publications.
As the spirit moves us: Embracing spirituality in the postsecondary experience. (2009) Book by Katherine Grace Hendrix and Janice D. Hamlet (Eds.). Review by Jean C. Fulton. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 102 pp. $29.00, ISBN # 978-0-470-59263-2