Cultivating the Spirit by Alexander Astin,  Helen Astin, and Jennifer Lindholm

“If students lack self-understanding – the capacity to see themselves clearly and honestly and to understand why they feel and act as they do – then how can we expect them to become responsible parents, professionals, and citizens?”

The past few decades has given us thousands of studies concerning higher education: how we learn, why we learn, who is learning, what we need to learn, etc. However, there have been practically no studies concerning the spiritual development of college students. Higher education authorities, Alexander Astin and Helen Astin wanted to fill this glaring void in education research.

Cultivating the Spirit is the result of a seven year study on the spiritual lives of college students. How as educators can we promote holistic development if we miss such a big piece of one’s life?

My entire professional career as a student affairs professional has been spent working at private Christian institutions where spiritual development is central, thus I was extremely excited to read this study. Though the study is strictly spiritual and mainly irreligious, the findings can be easily applied to any campus community. My biggest take-aways: to increase spiritual development get faculty involved outside the classroom and make service-learning/community service an essential part of the campus culture.

Though the study is packed with some amazing findings, the book is just a glorified journal article – feeling more like a tiny textbook.