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Student Spirituality

Graduate student Jerome Cawley, from the Educational Leadership program, completed his thesis on the role of spirituality in the lives of African Canadian post-secondary education students. Through a series of virtual semi-structured interviews with students enrolled in colleges in Ontario, Canada, Cawley examined the “sense of purpose…derived from one’s spirituality” as opposed to any one form of religion, and how it can impact academic success.

Jerome Cawley sitting at a table while working on a computer and wearing a suit.

Through his research, Cawley found that having strong spiritual beliefs strengthened the academic resilience, perseverance, and self-efficacy of participants. African Canadian post-secondary education students who acknowledge their spirituality as a part of their identity tend to find it as an important aspect of their overall academic success. Cawley also found that spirituality helps participants feel connected to their racial identity and can provide support for students navigating the racial issues that remain rampant within higher education.

Cawley hopes that this research will push Canadian post-secondary institutions to include more opportunities for spiritual exploration within an academic space. African Canadian students in particular have the potential to benefit from the ability to find deeper connections to spiritual beliefs in academic settings. Frequently, colleges tend to invest in external factors of student involvement, such as athletics, as opposed to funding opportunities for, and research about, more introspective practices, such as spirituality and its various outlets.


At CMU We Do Research, We Do Real World

Story by ORGS intern Ellie Heron

November 2021