Over at Insider Higher Ed, Seattle Pacific University English professor Susan VanZanten, the author of Joining the Mission: A Guide for (Mainly) New College Faculty, has a nice piece on what religious-affiliated colleges can offer academic job seekers. (The piece, of course, implies that religious-affiliated colleges are actually hiring these days). As someone who teaches at this type of institution, I couldn’t agree more with VanZanten’s essay. She addresses most of the common questions that job seekers have about religious colleges, especially the infamous “spiritual journey” essay that some schools of this nature require.
Here is a taste:
If you are committed to teaching undergraduates, think that character development is a crucial part of higher education, are interested in social justice and volunteer work, and are willing to address undergraduates’ concern for spiritual and vocational issues, a religiously affiliated college might be for you. Religiously affiliated institutions are not all fundamentalist bastions, conservative Roman Catholic enclaves, or controlled Mormon societies. The strength of religious affiliation at a college differs considerably, from a token historical connection brought out solely at convocation and commencement to a strict adherence to a particular religious order, church, or denomination.
Most religiously affiliated institutions are liberal arts colleges or comprehensive institutions, with only a handful of research institutions, such as the University of Notre Dame, Baylor University, and Georgetown University. Therefore, most religious colleges tend to have mission statements focused on teaching and learning; some research will most likely be expected of faculty, but not at the level of an R1 institution. Such colleges are strongly committed to providing their students with a holistic education that involves intellectual, emotional, communal, spiritual, and ethical emphases. Their educational outcomes move beyond imparting knowledge and skills to assisting students in developing moral commitments and ethical practices. Such institutions may strive to graduate involved national and world citizens, people of good character, or effective servant-leaders, to name just a few of the more common values-related outcomes.
Furthermore, such institutions tend to take seriously today’s undergraduate interest in spirituality and religiosity. The 2003-2010 HERI Study of Spirituality in Higher Education reveals a high degree of student interest in spiritual development, values, service, and belief. While few faculty members in public institutions believe that addressing these issues should be part of their role, private religiously affiliated institutions more typically expect faculty to actively explore these issues with their students.
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