Book by Arthur W. Chickering, Jon C. Dalton, Liesa Stamm
Review by Stephen G. Pajewski
Asst Director of Information Systems Programs
Carnegie Mellon University
If the goal of the undergraduate experience is to provide for the growth for the whole person, this growth should include student exploration of purpose, meaning, and spirituality in their lives. Recently these areas of student development have garnered more attention thus making this book both timely and greatly needed. Authors Chickering, Dalton, and Stamm—who bring many years of expertise in the field of educational leadership and policy to this publication— present ways to encourage increased authenticity and spiritual growth among students and education professionals. This is a very good resource for advisors who seek to guide young adults as they explore these aspects of their education.
The term authenticity refers to the consistency between what one says and what one does. In plain words, being authentic means that “what you see is what you get” (p. 8). The term spirituality is applied in the broadest sense – not just in terms of religious faith, but includes a commitment to a process of inner development that engages one’s total self (pp. 6-9). It is a belief or connectedness with something larger than one’s own self-interest. These definitions relate to other aspects of human development, such as integrity, identity, autonomy and interdependence, meaning and purpose.
The authors raise questions about the ability of higher education to provide effective opportunities for authenticity and spiritual growth within an enterprise that values vocationalism, materialism, self-interest, and rational empiricism. To what extent are campuses giving students the chance to explore the affective experiences of meaning, purpose, and identity?
Moreover, the authors find that administrators have long relied on rational empiricism for institutional research and decision-making. When it comes to assessing institutional influences on, and outcomes related to, spirituality, leaders are faced with measuring the ineffable—those outcomes that are more affective than cognitive, and more complex to assess.
The authors examine how campuses can support and “amplify” this personal growth and guide its integration with the curriculum, student affairs, community partnerships, assessment, and policy issues. They draw from many examples of specific policies and programs that have been successful at diverse institutions across the country. They provide sample syllabi for courses designed to engage students in examining meaning and purpose in their lives. They also provide recommendations for student affairs practice that work toward the same goals. These examples greatly enrich a text that already presents a wealth of theories and concepts.
One section of the book covers the historical and social perspectives on the relationship between religion and higher education. It refers to recent court cases dealing with church-state issues and offers recommendations that pose no legal barrier to implementation.
Advisors can be mindful that even if students do not specifically ask for guidance in how to find authenticity and spiritual growth, that doesn’t mean there is not a need for it. Students may have difficulty expressing this missing component to their education. Advisors are well-positioned to help students navigate a seemingly fragmented campus and see the overlapping of intellectual issues and spiritual questions. When students can see that spirit and intellect do not have to be separated and isolated, it can only enhance the power of learning and development.
This book can assist advisors lead campus efforts to encourage authenticity and spirituality. They may do this by modeling this personal development in their own lives, and by participating in campus efforts to engage students.
Lastly, the book is a very helpful resource for those who seek to explore its main topics further. Many of the book’s citations are compelling, and the bibliography lists several starting points for further research.
Encouraging Authenticity & Spirituality in Higher Education. (2005). Book by Arthur W. Chickering, Jon C. Dalton, Liesa Stamm. Review by Stephen G. Pajewski. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 384 pages. $40.00. ISBN: 0-7879-7443-9