DPAC fall meeting reflection

Author name
Clay Adams, Associate Dean of Students & Director for Parent and Family Programs

During Family Weekend, the Division of Student Affairs hosted its fall semester Duke Parents Advisory Council (DPAC) meeting. This group of dedicated and diverse parents gathers twice a year to provide Student Affairs leadership with feedback and counsel on a variety of topics. This semester’s topic was Faith, Spirituality, and the Academy.

The goal of the meeting was to explore how faith and spirituality – regardless of denomination, affiliation, or theism – plays into educational growth and formation of student identity. Dr. Zoila Airall, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs for Campus Life, introduced and facilitated the conversation. Guest speakers included leaders from some of Duke University’s faith-based groups, including Elana Friedman, Rabbi for Jewish Life at Duke; Joshua Lazard, C. Eric Lincoln Minister for Student Engagement and Interim Director for Religious Life; Michael Martin, Father and Director for the Duke Catholic Center; Joshua Salaam, Chaplain for Muslim Life at Duke; and Madhu Sharma, Chaplain for Hindu Life at Duke.

At the forefront of our discussion was the reality that Duke is an institution that welcomes and affirms all students, including those with quite varied religious affiliations and perspectives. We wrestled with questions including: What do you see as the role of faith-based communities in higher education today? How might we support both secular and faith-based communities across the broad spectrum represented at Duke? And what principles or lessons are taught within your faith tradition/practice that are approachable for all students? Our conversations embraced the full spectrum, positive and negative, of the impact of faith on our students’ development.

Our goal was to find themes within faith-based and spiritual traditions that would support holistic understanding of identity and wellness, and support both the individual perspectives represented by our students as well as the interfaith opportunities at a school as religiously diverse as Duke. Parents play a critical role prior to, during, and after their student’s college experience in exploring and understanding faith-based beliefs and values. They model pathways to inclusion and understanding while supporting their young adults on their own journeys of becoming their best selves. Through the wonderful presentations of our panelists, and the deep and challenging questions and ensuing candid discussions, the parental role was certainly highlighted in our discussion of Faith, Spirituality, and the Academy.

If you would like to learn more about the dynamic opportunities of Religious Life and faith at Duke, please visit the following links: Center for Muslim Life, Jewish Life at Duke, Religious Life at Duke.