As we continue our research, we’re focusing on factors for student success that are not getting much attention on the national scene. One of these areas is supporting students’ exploration of their core values and their inner spiritual, personal strengths.

This work is strongly supported by research completed at UCLA and described in the 2010 book Cultivating the Spirit by Alexander Astin, Helen S. Astin, and Jennifer A. Lindholm. This research provides solid evidence that student success increases and student satisfaction improves when key elements of spirituality are strengthened. They identified the five key elements of vibrant student spirituality as:

  • Equanimity / Resilience
  • Search for Life’s Meaning
  • An Ethic of Caring
  • Charitable Involvement
  • Global awareness

With support from a grant funded by the Council of Independent Colleges through their NetVUE project (Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education), Heritage and ISIR are working to create opportunities that can help students explore their core values as they pursue a path that expresses their deepest human and spiritual values as they pursue their vocation in life.

As a non-denominational institution, Heritage believes we can provide valuable input for developing this aspect of student support for other institutions. Since the majority of students in the U.S. attend institutions that have no religious affiliation because they are tax-supported, Heritage’s efforts to explore non-denominational approaches to building spiritual strength could be helpful to many other campuses.

Heritage is piloting several approaches, including:

  • Regularly-scheduled guided walks on the labyrinth located in the center of the campus
  • Spirituality Awareness week
  • Student focus groups to identify spiritually nourishing places and activities on campus
  • Supporting a student club focused on these ideas

In these efforts, Heritage is drawing on its history as the successor institution to Fort Wright College of the Holy Names (Spokane, 1907 – 1982) sponsored by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. A campus spirit of mutual support and caring, as well as specific activities to sustain students’ inner strengths and spiritual growth, are a valuable part of the heritage from Fort Wright which are being developed to support student success.