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Assessing Students’ Moral and Spiritual Growth at Catholic Liberal Arts Colleges: A Collaborative Grant-Funded Initiative

Catherine WoodBrooksPresenter: Catherine WoodBrooks

Professional Title: Vice President for Student Affairs

Institution: Assumption College

Background Experience: The professional career of Catherine WoodBrooks spans over thirty years in Student Affairs administration in both public and private colleges and universities including the University of Maine and Connecticut College. She has a Ph.D. in student affairs higher education from The Ohio State University and has presented at over twenty national and regional conferences.


Timothy AustinPresenter: Timothy Austin

Professional Title: Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College

Institution: College of the Holy Cross

Background Experience: Timothy Austin was educated at Oxford and earned a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has been a faculty member, department chair, and served in academic administrative positions at Loyola University Chicago and Creighton University. He has written two books and a number of scholarly articles about the language of poetry as well as a number of informal essays on topics in the area of higher education administration.


Abigail LauPresenter: Abigail Lau

Professional Title: Director of Assessment at Emmanuel College

Institution: Emmanuel College

Background Experience: Abigail Lau served as the project director for the Teagle Foundation grant “Assessing Students’ Moral and Spiritual Growth at Liberal Arts Colleges.” Prior to that, she was an assessment specialist at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, where she earned a doctorate in assessment and measurement and a master of arts degree in psychological science. She attended Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA.



Three New England Catholic colleges have been engaged as partners in a three-year collaborative project funded by the Teagle Foundation to assess moral, ethical, spiritual, and religious development of students on their campuses. This session will focus on the purpose, methods, and analysis of the project that examined students’ ability to articulate core values, the sources of those values, and the effect those values exert on actions that sustain them in their lives beyond graduation.

Session Experience: “This session will highlight collaborative work of three institutions on a project funded by The Teagle Foundation. We hope that our information will be helpful to others who are grappling with effective ways to assess students’ moral, ethical, and spiritual development. Our hope is for others to gain insight from the methods we used and subsequent results we found. We will cover three key elements of our project: curricular and co-curricular opportunities that spark growth in moral, ethical, and spiritual development; the importance of sustained or repeated involvement in experiences that affect students’ belief systems; and, ways in which students’ attitudes and beliefs inform specific action.”

Extending the Experience:  “We hope the participants will understand that we are publicly committed to a view that the whole of human experience is worthy of critical inquiry and that, as a result, students can and should be taught to examine moral and spiritual experience with the same intellectual openness and rigor they would apply to historical, scientific, or economic developments. We believe that the methods we have adopted are replicable and will invite participants to adapt them to their own contexts.”