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BG Falcon Media

Independent student content

BG Falcon Media

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BG Falcon Media

The BG News
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November 30, 2023

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Building mind and spirit, in classes and beyond

A university is a place where students can learn about new ideas, search for answers to the larger questions of life and grow in ways other than getting older.

One of those ways is through spiritual growth – one of the University’s ‘core values’ and one students can seek out on campus through the BGeXperience program, classes and organizations.

Spiritual growth ‘is growing in knowledge of what life really means,’ said president Sidney Ribeau.

To grow, Ribeau said one needs to ask oneself about intangibles that are important and to understand who each of us is and what each person’s purpose is.

Carney Strange, professor of higher education and student affairs and teacher of Spiritual Dimensions of Student Developments, said spiritual growth is making meaning, and in the most comprehensive terms, ‘What is our ultimate end?’

To make meaning and to gain knowledge on what that end could be, Strange suggests thinking about your identity, relationships and purposes and directions.

Ribeau said that when he was at a funeral two weeks ago, he was thinking about how the deceased made an impact on the world and how he hoped his own life has contributed to the world in some small way.

He wondered if he could be more concerned about others or better informed about the world.

‘In our society, you are allowed to answer those questions in different ways,’ Ribeau said.

One way to search for answers to questions about life is through religion.

He believes in a Christian ethic, but, he said, ‘that doesn’t preclude all other ways. I have friends who are not Christian who still try to find answers, which are excellent, appropriate answers to make sense of life.’

Strange said most students have experience with spirituality because of religion.

‘Religion is an occasion where students assert their individuality,’ Strange said. They say no to following in the footsteps of their parents’ religions and search for something new.

Other students find a religious system for the first time, Strange said.

Ribeau said spiritual questions are answered differently by different cultures because of their traditions, rituals and myths.

Other paths toward answers include finding out more about how the human body operates, the operations of society, the impact of the economy on people and what motivates, rewards and punishes humans, Ribeau said.

Ribeau suggested courses in anthropology, philosophy and psychology to provide an avenue for spiritual growth.

Clubs and organizations on campus are also an opportunity for growing spiritually.

Ribeau said there are enough opportunities for spiritual growth available on campus, but students may have to hunt for them.

‘You could stumble on Thursday night downtown as much as [you could stumble on] the core values,’ Ribeau said.

Students have so many opportunities at a university that they may not be concerned with growing spiritually, Strange said.

‘It is hard to think of ultimate ends when you’re young. You’re busy with your identity, friends, picking a major. You go week to week,’ Strange said. ‘The immediacy of college life consumes most students’ time and energy, so ultimate concerns are not high on the list.’

But then events like a funeral can bring back the questions about life, Strange said.

‘Those questions arise in not so welcome terms, such as the death of a friend,’

One may wonder at these times, ‘Why here? What’s this all about?’ Strange said.

But bringing more spiritual growth to the classroom seems a difficult task to Strange.

‘There’s an uneasy truce here between the academy and these kinds of questions,’ Strange said. ‘We are a public institution that is conscious of [the separation of] church and state. All of us are agents of the state by contract.’

There are many questions unasked and unexplored because of that separation, Strange said.

‘If a student graduates with a degree and does not understand the means the world responds to those [questions with], students are at a disadvantage,’ Strange said.

And the university is the place where students have the ability to experience new ideas and search for answers to questions about the meaning of life.

‘While at a university, you have the time and opportunity to try to figure out what’s really important to you and your life,’ Ribeau said.

‘We’re not a corporation, a small one-dimensional organization. What universities do is open one to the life, mind, heart and spirit through the arts, science and philosophy. A university is the ideal stage for this whole drama to be enacted.’


Another opportunity for discussion of values is through the BGeXperience. Ribeau said the program is not necessarily about the University’s core values, but the course allows students to explore their own values.

He hopes that students may see a meeting point between their own values and the values of the University through BGeXperience.

George Agich, director of BGeXperience and philosophy professor, said the values aspect of a BGeXperience course is to show students how their beliefs work with the beliefs of others, to tolerate the beliefs of others and to allow for students to grow confidence in beliefs they already have.

Different values are addressed in each of the 150 BGeXperience courses, Agich said.

John Gruber, freshman music education major currently in an astronomy BGeXperience course, said he is learning to recognize his values and how they affect his relationships with other people through the course.

For example, Gruber said, the class discusses the values that drive peoples’ decisions to support or fight nuclear power.

Still, the meaning of life questions that Ribeau and Strange suggested are not something that can be taught in one semester, Strange said.

Therefore, he is looking into adding additional courses to the BGeXperience program where students can have the opportunity to delve into spiritual questions.

But, ‘Every course on campus should contribute [to spiritual growth],’ Agich said.

On-campus organizations

Creed on Campus is a Catholic organization open to all students on campus.

‘The number one goal is to grow in your spiritual life,’ said Ryan Rahrig, Creed’s vice president.

The mission statement of the organization states, ‘We, the members of Creed on Campus, are dedicated to the pursuit of holistic spiritual growth in Jesus Christ.’

Activities that Creed provides are weekly meetings that cover church teachings and spiritual formations, daily prayer sessions, activities through St. Thomas More University Parish, masses Monday through Thursday and Sunday Bible studies.

Matt Pardi is the pastor for h2o, another Christian organization on campus. He said spiritual growth can occur through art, poetry, classes, relationships and clubs.

Pardi said different values can turn people off, and if students had a bad experience with religion, they don’t want to deal with that topic again.

Students can come to h2o to spiritually grow through means other than religion, Pardi said.

‘We steer away from religion to accommodate all types of people,’ Pardi said.

h2o provides music, small group discussions, a Sunday morning church service at 11 and Thursday night meetings.

Pardi said the organization is the largest it has been in 25 years. ‘There is a real spiritual interest in people right now,’ he said.

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