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Expert Discusses Spiritual Exploration When Starting College

As college classes are about to start, new students may feel pressure to stray from their religious upbringings. KSMU's Benjamin Fry spoke to an expert on student culture and religious studies about exploring one's faith while in college.

As many college freshmen leave their parents, high school friends, and hometown behind, religious faith may also be put on the backburner.

David Embree is an instructor of religious studies at Missouri State University, as well as a campus minister.

He says many student organizations and classes focus on academics and students might lose focus on religion for a while.

"But in the classroom we don't want to hear talk about your religious ideals, we're only going to speak about the facts. And so a vision of the world that is essentially free of religion is presented. Religion is seen as something peripheral."

As a campus minister, Embree has seen many cases of freshmen having their priorities changed right off the bat, only to find their faith later.

He recalls a story of one student recently told of how just a month into college she felt sick all the time from binge drinking and felt as though she was only liked by other students if she agreed with them.

"She connected with a community of faith on campus and found some people who said 'okay, take it easy, calm down a little bit, sit back, think through things'."

Within a couple of months, Embree says the girl was best friends with the group and her life was going well.

Embree says if your college kid seems to be straying from his or her faith, listen rather than lecture, and ask questions about their new outlook.

"So what is it you're hearing, what is it you're thinking, how does this fit and help me see where you're going with this. Give the students an adult role."

Embree encourages students to ask themselves the big questions of spirituality before they even begin college.

For KSMU News, I'm Benjamin Fry.