Women students find support, comfort in religion
October 14, 2010
Chipped and weathered on a ring of keys is a small wooden memento that belongs to Gloria Meyer, a senior majoring in psychology at UW-River Falls. Inscribed on the worn keepsake is one of her favorite mottos: “It’s not about me, but about Him.” A small cross separates the two phrases.
She is one of 10 children, all of whom were raised Roman Catholic. Meyer accepts the sect as one that is strict, which has helped her remain focused on her relationship God.
Earnest about her religion, Meyer considers Jesus to be her best friend.
“If I get excited or scared I check in with him,” she said. “I don’t make any decisions without him because I know that he is everywhere.”
Meyer is a mother of one, has been married twice, and is 53 years old. It was her faith that brought her back to college.
The Higher Education Research Institute found that in 2003, 83 percent of college students identified themselves with some type of denomination or religion.
Lauren Hanson, a senior and president of the Newman Club, a Catholic organization on UWRF’s campus, relates that a student’s faith grows because there are new challenges to be faced.
Yvonne Wilken, Journey House’s campus minister, has found that the challenges may come from something beyond academia.
“Students come to find that what they had been taught is only one way among many different spiritualities,” Wilken said.
Researchers have different theories as to why there has been an increase in religion among college students. According to HERI, the rise in religion comes from a variety of factors, including an increase in women, students’ ages and higher fertility rates among Catholics.
Under the circumstances of religion, young men have the lowest religious affiliation than any other demographic, according to a study done at Illinois University.
According to the University of Wisconsin Office of Policy Analysis & Research, the UWRF campus is made up of 3,694 female students, making them represent 59 percent of the student body as of spring 2010.
“At least on a college campus it is more socially acceptable for women to be religious, while men are still encouraged to be adolescent,” said UWRF’s religious club InterVarsity’s advisor Timothy Prince.
It’s not just on a college level that women are more religious. The PEW Research Center found in 2008, one in five men claim to have no religious affiliation, a stark contrast to the 87 percent of women who said that they did.
A large part of how men and women respond to religion is based on how society has distinguished the difference between masculinity and femininity. It’s a function that plays a role in an individuals life starting from a young age, said the University’s sociology and women studies professor, Paige Miller.
“Men have to be independent, tough and alone, and for some, religion is seen as a crutch,” said junior and Vice President at Newman House Patrick Houlton.
“We still see women in more domestic roles than men. They often want to express more religiosity upon their children,” Miller said. “Stereotypically, women also tend to seek out others in times of trouble they tend to rely on one another and a church can be a place for people to find someone to listen to them,” Miller said.
According to HERI, 69 percent of Americans see religion as something that serves to help provide strength, support and guidance.
People are always looking for a deeper meaning in life and religion can offer a purpose, Houlton said.
There are nine religious organizations on the University’s campus for students to find these things. Journey House is one of these organizations, where conversion is not the goal, rather the goal is community, Wilken said.
Meyer has one more semester left at River Falls. She remains optimistic about what God has planned for her after graduation.
“The wind is a lot bigger than me,” she said. “I set the sail and let the wind direct me. I do get blown into unknown places and I don’t fight it.”