Book By: Harriet L. Schwartz
Review By: Shannon Lynn Burton
Academic Advising Specialist
School of Criminal Justice
Michigan State University
Thomas Merton once wrote that “the purpose of education is to show a person how to define himself authentically and spontaneously in relation to his world – not to impose a prefabricated definition of the world, still less an arbitrary definition of the individual himself (Palmer, 1993).” In an academic environment where students explore their individuality and student affairs professionals discuss cognitive and social development to guide students, there appears to be a component missing – that of the student’s spiritual development, their own personal quest of making meaning of their life.
While many institutions, both public and private, maintain individuals to work with students of a particular religious affiliation, many do not address the overall spiritual development of their students. “Students with spiritual interests and concerns learn that the university will not validate or feed their interests. They learn to either suppress their spiritual life or to split their spiritual life apart from their formal education (Buley-Meissner, Thompson & Tan, 2000, 15).” As a result, many college students often experience a period of displacement, confusion, and discomfort as they develop cognitively and emotionally (Love & Talbot, 1999).
Schwartz offers a guide for students seeking to navigate the politics surrounding their spirituality. Spirituality 101 goes beyond the expected advice on how to manage religious holidays within the academic calendar and on how to manage beliefs in and out of the classroom to offer student testimonies from various spiritual backgrounds to demonstrate that student are not alone in facing these challenges. Following students from admissions through graduation, chapters include finding your fit, student organizations, relationships, and spirituality in careers. Also included are resources with Web sites of the major faiths and a list of recommended reading for individuals who would like to pursue their spiritual development further.
Academic advisors will find Spirituality 101 a wonderful resource to address the needs of students facing spiritual concerns. It is one of the few texts I have seen that adequately balances the practical vs. the theoretical to help students develop spiritually during their years in higher education. The book is manageable for advisors, administrators, faculty, and most importantly, for students.
In all, Spirituality 101 will be useful for any individual interested in managing spiritual concerns within higher education. As Schwartz notes spirituality is a lifelong journey. “We enjoy times when we are in a good spiritual groove, and we work through times when we can’t find our spiritual rhythm. Learn from it and continue to grow” (p. 259). This is good advice for all of us.
Buley-Meissner, M.L., Thompson, M.M., and Tan, E.B., Eds. (2000). The Academy and the Possibility of Belief. Cresskill: Hampton Press, Inc.
Love, P.G. and Talbot, D.M. (Fall 1999). Defining Spiritual Development: A Missing Consideration in Student Affairs. NASPA Journal, 37, 1, 361-375.
Palmer, P.J. (1993). To Know as We Are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey. San Francisco: Harper & Row.
Spirituality 101: the Indispensable Guide to Keeping – or Finding – Your Spiritual Life on Campus. (2004). Book by Schwartz, Harriet L. Review by Burton, Shannon L.
Skylight Paths Publishing. 254 pp., $16.99. ISBN 1-59473-000-8