Book by Johnson, Brian T. and O’Grady, Carolyn R.
Review by Claire Lopatto
Assistant to the Dean of General Studies
Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

This book examines the roles of faith, service and social justice in higher education by focusing on the experiences of faculty and staff at a particular institution, Gustavus Adolphus, a private Lutheran college in Minnesota. The editors divide the book into three parts: 1) illuminating the genesis of these issues and setting their context within the college structure, 2) providing accounts from individuals who have attempted to incorporate social service into their classrooms and their interactions with students, and 3) offering observations on the challenges and stumbling blocks encountered along the way.

It is prudent that the editors immediately addressed two issues that are voiced throughout the individual accounts. These issues include the difficulty of talking about issues of faith and other intangibles, “the lack of a common language” (p.xvii) that other subjects enjoy, and the very real barriers of attitude often found on college campuses regarding the relevancy and academic value of these topics.

Chapters from faculty and staff are compelling because of the authors’ honesty and willingness to share how their own life experiences led them to the viewpoints and practices they have today. The contributing writers represent a diverse group of religious beliefs, e.g., atheists and an evangelical Christian, and a broad scope of academic disciplines e.g., environmental science and political science. These authors willing reveal both successes and failures in incorporating social awareness and practical implementation of awareness. The voices are passionate and thoughtful.

The authors offer guidelines for initiating dialogues and social service in and out of the classroom.  They make a convincing case against the mindset of the “false dichotomy between faith and reason” (p.241).  They succeed in drawing a connection between the local and universal that readers may find relevant and useful at their own institutions.

This is an ambitious and engaging book that raises issues that are easily recognized by anyone working in higher education. Academic Advisors, whose profession recognizes the integration of students’ personal, social and academic lives, will find this book useful as an advising tool and perhaps as a focal point for initiating a dialogue on their own campuses and within the Advising profession.

The Spirit of Service: Exploring Faith, Service, and Social Justice in Higher Education. (2006).  Book by Johnson, Brian T. and O’Grady, Carolyn R. (Eds.). Review by Claire Lopatto. Williston, VT: Anker Publishing, 267 pp. $39.95  ISBN # 1933371013
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