Master of Arts in Higher Education Theses

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Scott Gaier

Second Advisor

Tim Herrmann

Third Advisor

Skip Trudeau


The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to discover the essence of college students’ engagement with theology. Theology is the foundation on which Christian beliefs are based, and many Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) institutions affiliate themselves with core theological doctrines that influence how their institutions function. This study seeks to explore the theological experiences of eight college seniors attending three CCCU institutions. The guiding questions for this study were how do college students define theology and how do college students perceive the influence of theology on their day-to-day experience? Through photo elicitation and semi-structured interviews, four main themes emerged: (a) Lack of theological clarity as first year students, (b) college as a positive influence on theology, (c) theology is challenged by differing perspectives, and (d) theology is developed through discussion. The essence of college student theology as revealed by the themes above suggests that college students engage theology through experience. Future implications for practice and future research are provided, as well as a discussion on the connection of theology to student development.