Title: Religion in the Academy


The Religion in the Academy (RITA) Project address the many ways that religion, spirituality,

and big questions of human meaning and purpose interact with university education.




RITA Presentations and Workshops


The RITA Project helps colleges and universities develop models for engaging with religion in ways that align with institutional missions, educational goals, and campus cultures. The Jacobsens are able to provide customized half-day, full-day, or multi-day events that facilitate conversations, planning, and decision-making at public, private, and church-related institutions of higher education.


Title: Religion and the Curriculum: A New Rubric for Engagement


Religion encompasses a complex mix of personal spirituality, historic institutions and emerging movements, and shared public values like patriotism. Designing and assessing university programs that engage with religion in ways appropriate to a particular institution requires clear and appropriate guidelines. The RITA categories of personal, historic, and public religion provide a helpful framework for curricular and co-curricular engagement with various types of religious expression.


Title: Religious Diversity: Educating Students for Global Citizenship


Religious diversity is present globally, across the United States, and on college and university campuses. RITA has evaluated the demographics of religion in the USA and around the world, with a focus on the emerging diversity of religious and secular beliefs among young adults. This religious diversity presents challenges and opportunities for incorporating religious knowledge and interfaith competencies into classrooms, extracurricular activities, and service-learning programs related to global understanding and civic engagement.


Title: Faith and Learning: Five Models for the 21st Century


Students (and professors) are humans whose values and experiences influence the way they learn. Knowledge (one's best evidence-based understanding of the world) and faith (one's sense of connection with something larger than oneself) are inextricably intertwined. The RITA project employs five models for linking faith with learning to help educators and institutions understand these connections.


Title: Understanding Religion in the 21st Century


During the past two decades, the line between traditional religion and secular or quasi-secular spirituality has blurred. Students cannot understand modern politics, sociology, literature, psychology, cultural studies, or the arts without understanding this new religious context. The RITA project explores what this new reality of pluriform religion means for curricular and co-curricular university programming.




Directors of the Religion in the Academy Project


Title: Jake Jacobsen


Title: Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen

Douglas "Jake" Jacobsen (Ph.D., University of Chicago) is Distinguished Professor of Church History and Theology at Messiah College. Jake is the award-winning author of Thinking in the Spirit: Theologies of the Early Pentecostal Movement (2003), Gracious Christianity (2006), The World's Christians (2011), and Global Gospel: An Introduction to Christianity on Five Continents (2015).



Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen (Ed.D., Temple University) is Director of Faculty Development and Professor of Psychology at Messiah College in Grantham, PA. A former public school counselor, Rhonda has been the recipient of both national and campus teaching awards and has received several grants from the John Templeton Foundation to support her work bringing science and religion into dialogue in the classroom.


Jake and Rhonda co-direct the Religion in the Academy Project and are co-authors of three books published by Oxford University Press: Scholarship and Christian Faith: Enlarging the Conversation (2004), The American University in a Postsecular Age (2008), and No Longer Invisible: Religion in University Education (2012).


Contact Information:

Jake: profdjacobsen@gmail.com



Rhonda: profrjacobsen@gmail.com




The RITA Project has worked with a wide variety of colleges and universities, including:


Belmont University

Bethel University (MN)

Brigham Young University

Brown University

Calvin College

Davis and Elkins College

DePauw University

Dominican University

Eastern Mennonite University

Emory University

Hartwick College

Houghton College

Illinois College

Indiana Wesleyan University


Oberlin College

Penn State University

Pepperdine University

Roberts Wesleyan College

St. Olaf College

Santa Clara University

Seattle University

Syracuse University

University of Puget Sound

University of Rochester

Vanderbilt University

Virginia Tech





RITA Project Books



No Longer Invisible: Religion in University Education

(Oxford University Press, 2012)


Title: No Longer Invisible book cover



2013 American Education Studies Association (AESA) Critics' Choice Book Award


Drawing on conversations with hundreds of professors, co-curricular educators, administrators, and students from institutions spanning the entire spectrum of American colleges and universities, the Jacobsens illustrate how religion is constructively intertwined with the work of higher education in the twenty-first century. No Longer Invisible documents how, after decades when religion was marginalized, colleges and universities are re-engaging matters of faith--an educational development that is both positive and necessary.


Religion in contemporary American life is now incredibly complex, with religious pluralism on the rise and the categories of "religious" and "secular" often blending together in a dizzying array of lifestyles and beliefs. Using the categories of historic religion, public religion, and personal religion, No Longer Invisible offers a new framework for understanding this emerging religious terrain, a framework that can help colleges and universities--and the students who attend them--interact with religion more effectively. The stakes are high: Faced with escalating pressures to focus solely on job training, American higher education may find that paying more careful and nuanced attention to religion is a prerequisite for preserving American higher education's longstanding commitment to personal, social, and civic learning.


"This volume is a wise, sophisticated, eminently readable, and profoundly important contribution to the literature of higher education in America."

Lee S. Shulman, President Emeritus, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching


"The authors make a convincing argument that . . . educating the whole student means being willing to take all perspectives, even religious perspectives, seriously, from classrooms to student affairs to administrative offices."

Joanne Maguire Robinson, Teaching Theology and Religion


"The authors provide a much-needed source for understanding how religion connects with higher learning and how to capitalize on, rather than ignore, such connections."

Rishi Sriram, Religious Studies Review


"The Jacobsens' model allows even public colleges and universities to understand how religious questions can impact teaching and scholarship."

Todd W. Ferguson, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion



The American University in a Postsecular Age

(Oxford University Press, 2008)


Title: The American University in a Postsecular Age book cover



2009 Lilly Fellows Book Award Winner


For much of the twentieth century, it was assumed that higher education was and ought to be a secular enterprise, but that approach no longer suffices. The culture has shifted, and contemporary college and university students are increasingly bringing religious and spiritual questions to campus. In response, college and university leaders are exploring anew the relationship between religion and higher education.

This is a state-of-the-art introduction to the national discussion about religion and higher education. Leading scholars and top educators express a wide spectrum of opinions that reflect the best current thinking. Introductory and concluding essays by the editors describe the postsecular character of our age and propose a comprehensive framework intended to facilitate ongoing conversation.



Scholarship and Christian Faith: Enlarging the Conversation

(Oxford University Press, 2004)


Title: Scholarship & Christian Faith book cover



This book enters a lively discussion about religious faith and higher education in America that has been going on for a decade or more. During this time many scholars have joined the debate about how best to understand the role of faith in the academy at large and in the special arena of church-related Christian higher education. The notion of faith-informed scholarship has, of course, figured prominently in this conversation. But, argue Douglas and Rhonda Jacobsen, the idea of Christian scholarship itself has been remarkably under-discussed. Most of the literature has assumed a definition of Christian scholarship that is Reformed and evangelical in orientation: a model associated with the phrase "the integration of faith and learning."


The authors offer a new definition and analysis of Christian scholarship that respects the insights of different Christian traditions (e.g., Catholic, Lutheran, Anabaptist, Wesleyan, Pentecostal) and that applies to the arts and to professional studies as much as it does to the humanities and the natural and social sciences. The book itself is organized as a conversation. Five chapters by the Jacobsens alternate with four contributed essays that sharpen, illustrate, or complicate the material in the preceding chapters. The goal is both to map the complex terrain of Christian scholarship as it actually exists and to help foster better connections between Christian scholars of differing persuasions and between Christians and the academy as a whole.




Last Updated: June 2016