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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


Big Questions of Vocation, Professional Identity, and Classroom Practice:
A Conversation Between Colleagues

Melissa James and Steven Bauman

Using words like “anguish,” struggle, and “isolation,” René Arcilla suggests that for today’s students “disorientation is a central feature” of their postmodern education.1  As James Donahue notes, “confusion and alienation” instigate “an intense search for security and definition,”2 which both writers observe ends in premature resolution of the “big questions.” This is, of course, highly problematic, as the premature closing off of possible futures restricts the scope of a student’s world, and consequently, inhibits engagement with bigger questions.

In this paper, we draw from our work in our respective disciplines—Ethics and Social Theory (Melissa) and Religion and Psychology (Steven)—our shared participation in this yearlong Teagle-Wabash project, and subsequent combined interdisciplinary efforts, to offer our own unique insights into this problem and provide suggestions for possible remedies which take seriously the Astins’ challenge that ‘there is much more faculty and colleges can do to facilitate students’ spiritual development.’3



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