Religion Important to College Students

El Vaquero Editor in Chief

It comes in many different forms, determines a presidential election and, according to UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, is a part of three out of four third-year college students’ daily lives: religion and prayer.

“It has an important influence on my day-to-day actions,” said GCC student Shahin Badkoubei, 19, studying economics.

“In order to understand God’s teaching, one needs to be educated…[religion] has
shaped me.”

Badkoubei is a Baha’i, one who follows the prophet Baha’u’llah. Founded in Iran, it is a monotheistic religion considered to be one of the youngest of the world’s main religions.

Badkoubei believes that religion does play an active role in his life, including with last fall’s presidential elections. “I said a prayer before I chose who I wanted to vote for,” he said.

In fact, 75 percent of third-year college students nationwide reported that they pray on a regular basis, according to UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute.

In the spring of 2003, UCLA conducted a “Spirituality in Higher Education” research and polled nearly 4,000 students from 46 colleges and universities across the country. The study showed 78 percent of college students discuss religion and spirituality with friends, 76 percent of those students affirmed that they are searching for meaning and purpose in their lives and approximately 73 percent reported that religion helps in developing their identities.

Badkoubei agrees. “The values that one inherits from their faith should and does play a role [in one’s life],” he said.

However, not all students categorize themselves as religious. Anahid Yekyazarian, 20, an English major, is one such student. “[I’m] spiritual more so than religious,” she said.

As a student, religion isn’t a part of her everyday life inside the classroom, but is more of a form of daily encouragement. “As far as school goes, it’s not so much of a direct factor as [much as it is] an inspiration to strive for better,” said Yekyazarian. “Religion keeps me grounded and motivated in general.”

She feels there is a reason why faith is such a major aspect of college students’ lives. “Religion connects you to the bigger picture,” she said. “…something that’s way bigger than college.”

In fact, 71 percent of students surveyed in UCLA’s study indicated that they “gain spiritual strength by trusting in a higher power.”
The study also shows a large number of students who, though religious, still question their religion and spiritual beliefs. About 83 percent of students admitted that they question their religious/spiritual beliefs occasionally or frequently.

Adjunct GCC professor Kenneth Locke, who teaches a philosophy course titled Religions of the Near East, is a full-time professor and assistant chair of the department of religious studies at the University of the West in Rosemead.

Locke feels that college students incorporate religion into their lives because of the circumstances that surround a young adult. “I think young people…every single one of them have to ask themselves, ‘where are they going in life?'” he said. “…and that’s a religious question.”
Locke believes that because college students are just venturing off into their adult lives, they find themselves asking questions about their future and can often find the answers to these questions through their spirituality. “[But] these issues aren’t explained at the college level,” he said.

Still, this campus has many religious clubs that meet weekly to discuss these religious issues which students feel are not explored in a college academic. Kris Hannah is an adviser for one such club on campus, Campus Crusade for Christ.

“The club…focuses on the Lord Jesus and His work,” said Hannah. “We take prayer requests for each other because schedules get tough and life is tough and god answers prayers.”

Hannah believes that these kinds of clubs provide an important outlet for religious and spiritual students. “Students have a tough time,” she said. “They have financial [issues], they have families [and] they’re trying to get their education.”

But in fact, Locke believes an academic look at religion should have more presence in college academics. “I think one of the greatest tragedies in Western tradition is how religion has been removed from the curriculum or watered down,” he said.

Of course, not all agree with this idea. “…there is no way to incorporate all religions [in a course curriculum] … hence you end up offending people,” said Yekyazarian.

For Richard Henry, a 21-year-old Christian, religion is a force that helps determine the distinction between good and bad in a practical way, on a daily basis.

“It shapes how you live in general,” he said. “[Religion helps people in] doing the right thing, treating people right…[and forming] discipline.”