The Role of Catholic Campus Religious Ministries in the Formation of Young Adults (2017-2018)


U.S. universities are more open to religious life and development than is often assumed, and campus ministries hope to play an important role in bridging the religion of adolescence and that of independent adulthood. However, very little research about campus ministries exists, leaving both campus ministers and scholars unsure of what roles campus ministries play in students’ religious, social and personal development.

Project Description

This Bass Connections project team aims to collect a unique panel dataset of Catholic college students to better understand religious trajectories during college and how they relate to other attitudes and behaviors.

Catholics in the U.S. have shown a unique religious, social and political trajectory since the 1968 release of Humanae Vitae compared to other religious groups. There is a significant difference between what the Catholic Church formally believes and what American Catholics privately practice and believe. By focusing on Catholics, the team can address the organizational challenges faced by campus ministries and understand how personal religion and affiliation with the organization interact with students’ development in the larger world.

The 2016-2017 version of this project team is piloting the survey at Duke, conducting cognitive interviews of the survey questions and analyzing the data to assess potential bias in answering the questions and in deciding to complete the survey. This information will be used to revise the piloted survey in time to administer the full survey to students at multiple universities in Summer 2017.

Data will be collected from Catholic college students at multiple universities. A number of measures will be assessed, and the 2017-2018 team will field additional modules to answer previously unaddressed research questions. From this dataset, team members will conduct research and write articles.

The team will also create resources for campus ministries that will aid their goal of serving college students. Campus ministries have limited funds to allocate toward program evaluation and student needs, and they have even less ability to assess what leads students to avoid or leave campus ministries. Because this team will be sampling all students, regardless of their participation in campus ministries, findings will help ministries to address key questions regarding why students participate and what keeps them away. The resources will describe the types of Catholic students that ministries can expect to interact with, outline reasons students participate or choose not to participate, describe the outcomes associated with different activities put on by ministries and suggest ways to further engage contemporary students.

Anticipated Outcomes

Original research articles published (including coauthored articles with undergraduate team members); resources for campus ministries produced


Fall 2017 – Spring 2018

  • Fall 2017: Investigate existing research on selected topics; produce literature reviews; assess methods of inquiry for research questions; receive training in relevant research methods; amend survey to include any additional questions
  • Spring 2018: Administer the second wave of a multi-university survey; receive statistical training in R; analyze data from waves 1 and 2; use project survey data to help answer research questions discussed in the Fall 2017 semester; deliver materials and findings to campus ministers

Team Outcomes to Date

The Role of Catholic Campus Religious Ministries in the Formation of Young Adults (talk by Michelle Krogius), EHDx, April 19, 2018

Impact of Catholic Ministries on Student Development (poster by Samantha Heino, Garrett Jones, Michelle Krogius, Katie Cassedy, Megan Tisdale and Simon Brauer), presented at EHDx, April 19, 2018

The Role of Catholic Campus Ministries in the Formation of Young Adults: Project Report and Findings on Mental Health (Samantha Heino and Simon Brauer, February 2018)

The Role of Catholic Campus Ministries in the Formation of Young Adults: Project Report and Findings (Simon G. Brauer, November 2017)

Project team website

See earlier related team, The Role of Catholic Campus Religious Ministries in the Formation of Young Adults (2016-2017).

/faculty/staff Team Members

  • Peter Arcidiacono, Arts & Sciences-Economics*
  • Simon Brauer, Trinity - Sociology-Ph.D. Student*
  • Mark Chaves, Arts & Sciences-Sociology
  • V. Joseph Hotz, Arts & Sciences-Economics

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Catherine Cassedy
  • Samantha Heino, Biology (BS), Evolutionary Anthropology(AB2)
  • Garrett Jones, Mechanical Engineering (BSE)
  • Michelle Krogius, Civil Engineering (BSE)

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Fr. Albert Duggan, Brown University Catholic Center
  • Fr. Michael Martin, Duke Catholic Center
  • Fr. Eric Nielsen, University of Wisconsin Catholic Center
  • Shari Reilly, Iowa State Catholic Center
  • Fr. Justin Ross, UNC-Chapel Hill Catholic Center
  • Rosie Shawver, USC Caruso Catholic Center
  • JoAnn Shull, Mizzou Catholic Center
  • Fr. Jerry Waterman, Syracuse University Catholic Center