Wednesday January 18, 2006

Making a Life

The University of Dayton is one of 10 religiously affiliated colleges nationally that excels at helping students "find purpose and meaning in life," according to the newly published book, Putting Students First: How Colleges Develop Students Purposefully.

The University of Dayton is one of 10 religiously affiliated colleges nationally that excels at helping students "find purpose and meaning in life," according to the newly published book, Putting Students First: How Colleges Develop Students Purposefully.

"Faculty members at these schools try to stretch students in a community of support and challenge. We found that at (the University of) Dayton. These schools are not boot camps. They honor the dignity of the individual student. They have created a community on campus that fosters holistic development," said Larry Braskamp, professor emeritus of education at Loyola University Chicago, who wrote the book with Lois Calian Trautvetter and Kelly Ward.

"We hope the book will spark a national dialogue from leaders on campus about the need to focus on student development, not just student learning," Braskamp said in a phone interview. "At the undergraduate level, we think it's important for students to be challenged on the important questions of life, 'Who am I? How can I contribute? What is my vocation?' There's more to life than just career success. We think religion plays a part in helping students find the answers to a (purposeful) life."

The authors analyzed nearly 250 surveys and conducted 30 interviews with chief academic officers of religiously affiliated colleges and universities, before selecting 10 to visit for in-depth analysis. The campuses include: Bethune-Cookman College, Creighton University, Hamline University, Hope College, Pacific Lutheran University, College of Wooster, Union University, University of Dayton, Villanova University and Whitworth College. The project was funded by the Lilly Endowment Inc. and the John Templeton Foundation.

"These colleges not only desire to help students be successful -- a goal of most educators today and of importance and value to be sure, but they were selected since we wanted to learn how colleges think, plan and behave in preparing students to live their lives as well as making a living," the authors write in the introduction.

In various chapters in the book, the authors note the University of Dayton's "deep commitment" to social justice, emphasis on community and the intentional development of learning and living communities in its student neighborhood and residential facilities, including the new Marianist Hall and ArtStreet. The Marianists frequently invite students to their homes for conversations and meals. "Such interactions are very important to the student experience and were referred to repeatedly by many students," according to the book. "Learning in community, for community and as a community (is emphasized here)," one University of Dayton dean observed.

The book is "an affirmation of what a University of Dayton education is all about," said Daniel J. Curran, president.

Fred Pestello, provost and senior vice president for educational affairs, served on a national advisory council that offered feedback to the authors about the initial survey results used as the foundation of the book. "I'm very pleased that the University of Dayton is seen as an exemplary institution that puts students first," he said. "The book is targeted to higher education administrators, but it's also valuable for prospective students and their parents who are looking for institutions committed to putting students first."

The authors conclude: "A good education is not just training for a career but helping students find their calling -- in which a career can rightly play a very important part in living out a life of meaning and purpose."

The book is available from Anker Publishing at www.ankerepub.com or by calling (877) 212-3838.

Contact Fred Pestello at (937) 229-2245 and Larry Braskamp at (312) 915-6217.