JACKSON, Tenn. – March 16, 2006 – Union University is one of 10 church-related institutions featured in a new book that explores how higher education helps students find purpose and meaning in life.
In “Putting Students First: How Colleges Develop Students Purposefully,” authors Larry A. Braskamp, Lois Calian Trautvetter and Kelly Ward argue that colleges should invest in students in ways that help them develop intellectually, spiritually and morally.
In addition to Union, the authors conducted research at nine other institutions, including Villanova University, Creighton University, the University of Dayton, Pacific Lutheran University, Bethune-Cookman College, Hamline University, Hope College, the College of Wooster and Whitworth College.
These 10 colleges represent a broad range of church and denominational affiliation. Some are Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist and Lutheran. Union is the only Baptist university represented.
Union University President David S. Dockery said Union’s inclusion in the book was “quite a tribute.”
“It recognizes that Union is not only a leader in the evangelical world but in church-related education, broadly speaking across the country,” Dockery said. “This publication recognizes Union’s strong commitment to excellence in teaching, serious scholarship and deep devotion to students and their development.”
In the book’s introduction, the authors assert that a college education ought to center on “holistic student development.” They stress three themes throughout the book.
The first theme is the “intentionality of colleges as they guide students to become what the college thinks and believes is a desired end for students.”
Secondly, colleges “develop students in ways that recognize and build on the student’s purpose in life, intellectually and morally. Intentional colleges create environments that center on purpose, helping students reflect on such questions as – Who am I? What are my goals in life? How do I want to make a difference with my life?”
The third theme is the role of faculty in fostering student development. The authors say they are not advocating an environment that meets all of its students’ demands. Instead, they emphasize the role the faculty and other influential adults play in student development.
The colleges included in the study were selected because they “intentionally assist students to ask and ‘struggle’ with the fundamental questions in life while they are in college,” the authors write.