Higher education should “inspire undergraduates to think deeply about the universe and their place in it.” Instead, universities often serve as mere credentialing agencies, substituting professional prospects for meaningful inquiry and missing an important opportunity to form thoughtful future leaders. Recent years have seen the success of initiatives that respond to this failure. Some of these efforts have emerged within traditional academic departments (Miroslav Volf’s “Life Worth Living” course at Yale or Meghan Sullivan’s “God and the Good Life” course at Notre Dame). Others exist alongside universities (Lumen Christi, Berkeley Institute, Tikvah Fund) or—as with the honors programs at Villanova, Eastern, Baylor, and Valparaiso—offer a 4-year curriculum and student life programming. These programs (1) lack networks of support and cooperation; (2) find themselves reinventing a wheel already developed by another initiative; and (3) sometimes see each other as competitors rather than collaborators. Seeding a national coalition through summer workshops, “Hope in Higher Education” will bring together educational leaders of these initiatives. They will share best practices, develop networks, collaborate on common projects, and inaugurate a mentoring program to ensure that this coalition will have a sustainable impact.
Three weeklong summer workshops will bring together 20-25 leaders from these institutions, producing a cycle of preliminary reports, workshop discussions, progress reports, resource documents, and instructional materials for younger initiatives. These, in turn, will produce plans for co-funded conferences, student projects, and further grant proposals. Participants will also produce scholarly research, popular essays and least 1 monograph. This grant will lay the foundation for a new national coalition that will strengthen the whole field of higher education.