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Cultivating the Spirit: College and the Search for Meaning

Alexander and Helen Astin, April 20, 2009

4:30pm - Adamson Wing, 136A Baker Hall

Professors Alexander and Helen Astin will discuss the results of their longitudinal study begun in 2003 of over 100,000 college students to track the spiritual growth of students during their college years.

They asked the questions:

  • What is the level and intensity of spiritual experiences among today’s college students?
  • How are spiritual searching and behavior changing on campus?
  • And what does this mean for higher education institutions and students?

The study employed a multi-institutional and longitudinal design to identify trends, patterns, and principles of spirituality and religiousness among college students. The study was designed to ensure that all students—regardless of their particular theological perspective or belief system—will be able to respond in a meaningful way.

Alexander W. Astin is Allan M. Cartter Professor Emeritus of Higher Education and Founding Director of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. He is also the Founding Director of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program, the nation’s largest and oldest study of college students and faculty. Previously, Dr. Astin was Director of Research for both the American Council on Education and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

The author of 21 books and some 400 other publications in the field of higher education, Dr. Astin has been a recipient of awards for outstanding research from 13 national associations, a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and a recipient of eleven honorary degrees, and is a member of the National Academy of Education. The Journal of Higher Education has identified Dr. Astin as the most frequently-cited author in the field of higher education. In 1985 readers of Change magazine selected him as the person "most admired for creative, insightful thinking" in the field of higher education.

Dr. Astin’s research has focused on how undergraduate students are affected by their college experience, with particular emphasis on educational opportunity and equity, student persistence, service learning, and institutional transformation. He is currently principal investigator (with H. S. Astin) on a national study of spiritual development among undergraduates at 150 higher education institutions. His latest book is Mindworks: Becoming More Conscious in an Unconscious World (Information Age Publishing, 2007).

Helen S. Astin, a psychologist, is Professor Emeritus in the Graduate School of Education and a Senior Scholar at HERI.

Astin has served as a member of the board of the National Council for Research on Women and as a member of the Committee on Women’s Employment and Related Social Issues of the National Research Council. She has been a trustee of Hampshire College and currently serves on the Trustee's Board of Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles. She has been president of the Division of the Psychology of Women of the American Psychological Association.

She has published numerous articles and eleven books, including Women of Influence, Women of Vision: A cross-generational study of leaders and social change (1991), The Woman Doctorate in America (1969), Some Action of Her Own: The Adult Women and Higher Education (1976), and Higher Education and the Disadvantaged Student (1972). Her research and current writings focus on leadership and on spirituality in higher education.