Student Perception of and Role in Determining Catholic Identity

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Much of the concern of Catholic identity revolves around students’ experiences of Catholicism at Catholic colleges and universities. Given this concern, it is surprising how little attention has been focused on student perceptions of Catholic identity. In the spring of 2013, the author gathered data from more than 1,000 students at over 20 different institutions on their understanding of the religious identity of their Catholic college or university. This research yielded two main results: First, across institutions, students noted the presence of Catholicism in the classroom, as well as opportunities for worship and service. Second, student perceptions of Catholic identity are affected by their residential life and, even more so, the presence of Catholic students on campus. The conclusion of these fi ndings is that, regardless of an institution’s curriculum and policies, students have a signifi cant role in defi ning the institution’s Catholic identity.

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