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a journal of analysis and comment advancing public understanding of religion and education
(more on the Journal)

Summer 2009
Vol. 36 No. 2

Guest Editor’s Preface

At the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) in November, 2008, the Teaching Religion section sponsored two highly energized panels which addressed the Higher Education Research Institute’s (HERI) research findings on the spiritual and religious lives of college undergraduates.  This issue offers a timely conversation on the topic “Spirituality in Higher Education:  Programs, Problems, and Practices” that originated in and continued beyond those panels. 

The first panel –“Where Religion Faculty Meet Students' Worlds: Lessons from the Graduate Theological Union Preparing Future Faculty Project”— presented its discoveries from a mentoring program centered on teaching “The Big Questions,” inspired by the HERI findings.  The second panel –“‘Religious Literacy’ and Student ‘Spirituality’: Coming to Terms with the Terms”—took to task some of the terminology, guiding principles, implications, and applications of the HERI research.  

The two panels presented opposing viewpoints, but each to its own “choir.”  There was no opportunity for one side to listen and respond to the other.  Therefore, we have created a forum through this special issue in which there could be a sharing of – and learning from—the different perspectives. 

Furthermore, since the Teaching Religion section had sponsored popularly attended sessions on “Contemplative Pedagogy” over the last three years, we have included two articles generated from that arena.  Contemplative approaches offer yet a third lens through which Religious Studies professors are interpreting the HERI research.

We are grateful to all of the authors for their thoughtful contributions across a wide range of perspectives.  And we are grateful to our respondents:  Alexander and Helen Astin, co-investigators and co-authors of the HERI research, and Nadine S. Pence, Director of the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion. 

May our students benefit from these efforts.

Fran Grace
Department of Religious Studies
University of Redlands, CA