Professor receives $500,000 for religion research project

A $511,929 research grant has been awarded to Tim Clydesdale, associate professor of sociology at the College, by Lilly Endowment Inc. for his “Life and Vocation of American Youth Project.”

Clydesdale described this award as a “great affirmation” of the work in which he has long been interested.

The grant will fund Clydesdale and a team of student researchers’ nationwide study of the effect religious and educational activities have on college students’ and recent alumni’s vocational planning.

The students participating in the research include Lindsey Aloia, senior sociology and communication studies major; Joanna De Leon, junior sociology and philosophy major; Matthew Keating, senior sociology major; Matthew Warren, junior philosophy and history major; Mena Gawargi, senior sociology and religion major; and Frank Janks, senior sociology major. 1999 alumnus Keith Brown is working as a co-evaluator on the project.

Clydesdale, a previous recipient of Lilly Endowment support, was approached by the organization to head this study, which will evaluate the Endowment’s Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation (PTEV) initiative.

The Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based philantrophic organization “exists to support the causes of religion, education and community devolopment,” according to its Web site,

Clydesdale explained the goal of this initiative.

“(The Endowment) invested $220 million into programs that encouraged college students at 88 religious colleges to reflect on the relationship between their religious ethics and practices and their future life plans,” he said.

Clydesdale was finishing his latest book when he heard about the PTEV initiative and was intrigued by the idea, feeling further research on the subject was necessary.

This project will be beneficial to the many colleges and universities that are continuously looking for a way to encourage the total development of students. According to Clydesdale, recent surveys have shown that the majority of students enter college looking to find a deeper, more tangible life purpose. With the help of this research, hopefully more efficient ways of supporting students’ search for identity will be discovered.

The “Life and Vocation of American Youth Project” entails a nearly four-year study in which interviews, longitudinal research and data analysis will be conducted at numerous campuses across the country. Clydesdale himself will have visited nine campuses by the conclusion of this semester.

“(The travel is a) great chance to understand a lot about the variety of education in the U.S.,” Clydesdale said.

Two books are expected to be derived from the project: the first will be “about the short- and long-term impact of programmatic vocational reflection on students and their mentors at religious colleges and universities,” Clydesdale said. The other will examine alumni during their first year out of college, which he expects to be “the perfect follow-up” to his forthcoming book: “The First Year Out: Understanding American Teens after High School.”

Clydesdale also hopes his “Life and Vocation of American Youth Project” will lead to further studies in the future related to this topic.