The Role of Catholic Campus Religious Ministries in the Formation of Young Adults: Psychological, Social and Organizational Factors (2016-2017)

The study of religion among college students is a thriving research field. However, very little empirical research has investigated the role of on-campus religious organizations in students’ lives. How students are engaged by and, in turn, engage campus ministries, and how campus ministries shape students’ religious and secular lives is an area of investigation that has been largely ignored.

This Bass Connections project team aimed to fill that gap by conducting a study of Catholic students at multiple universities, beginning with a pilot study at Duke. The project set out to answer questions related to campus ministries’ roles in the psychological and social outcomes of individuals, and to better understand how campus ministries can achieve their goals while fostering student development and interest in their religion.

In partnership with the Duke Catholic Center, the project team administered surveys to Duke first-year students who indicated that they were Catholic on their admissions applications. Team members analyzed the data, learned how to answer their research questions with statistical tests and used the results to identify survey questions that may not have measured what the team intended. Those areas can be further examined with cognitive interviews.

The project’s research questions span the areas of religion, psychology, political and social attitudes, and social networks. For example, what characteristics of campus ministry are most important to contemporary Catholic students? What factors predict continued participation in campus ministry? Does religious background predict differential selection into college majors? Do students become more religiously liberal, less exclusive, or doubt more over time? Does increased stress predict decreased religious participation at a later time? Are students who are active in campus ministries more likely to agree with the Catholic Church’s positions on social issues and less likely to weaken their agreement than students who are not active participants? Are students with religiously diverse friends more likely to change their religious beliefs over time than students with homogeneous friends?

In the spring, the team organized a meeting of campus ministers from universities around the country. Faculty and student team members discussed the project and presented findings to date. The ministers provided input on ways to refine the survey for use on their campuses.


Summer 2016 – Spring 2017

Team Outcomes

Impact of Catholic Ministries on Student Human Development (Megan Tisdale, Simon Brauer, Samantha Heino, Gerardo Parraga, David Wohlever Sánchez)

The Role of Catholic Campus Ministries in the Formation of Young Adults (presentation by David Wohlever Sánchez, EHDx Talks, April 19, 2017)

Full-day meeting at Duke with campus ministers from around the country to discuss the project (February 21, 2017)

Religion, Campus Ministry and College Students (Simon Brauer)

Notions of Charity and Altruism in DCC Students (David Wohlever Sánchez)

Achievement and Well-being (Samantha Heino)

Sexual Behaviors, Alcohol Consumption and Drug Use (Gerardo Parraga)

Project website


The Role of Catholic Campus Ministries in the Formation of Young Adults


Simon Brauer, PhD Candidate in Sociology

David Wohlever Sanchez ’19

This Team in the News

These Ph.D. Graduates Incorporated Bass Connections into Their Doctoral Education

Reflections on Mentoring from Bass Connections Graduate Students

Students Share How They Spent Their Summer Breaks

See photos of this team on Flickr

This project team was originally part of the Education & Human Development theme of Bass Connections, which ended in 2022. See related team, The Role of Catholic Campus Religious Ministries in the Formation of Young Adults (2017-2018).

Team Leaders

  • Peter Arcidiacono, Arts & Sciences-Economics
  • Mark Chaves, Arts & Sciences-Sociology
  • V. Joseph Hotz, Arts & Sciences-Economics

/graduate Team Members

  • Simon Brauer, Sociology-PHD
  • Emily Pechar, Environmental Policy-PHD
  • Megan Tisdale, Liberal Studies-AM

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Samantha Heino, Biology (BS)
  • Gerardo Parraga, Political Science (AB)
  • David Wohlever Sanchez, Public Policy Studies (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Father Michael Martin, Duke Catholic Center