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Higher Education
Rice University
News Release
Monday, April 17, 2017

New $1.5 million grant to fund national research on faith and work

HOUSTON – (April 17, 2017) – A $1.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. will enable researchers from Rice University and Seattle Pacific University to examine the relationship between faith and work. The researchers hope to gain an understanding of how people from diverse workplaces and socio-economic backgrounds integrate religious views and their work.

The comprehensive study will focus on U.S. workers and will comprise a broad-based national, random-sample survey of approximately 12,000 people from multiple religious traditions and no religious tradition. Research will explore faith at work as well as religious discrimination. It will include focus groups with both professional and working-class participants and as many as 200 in-depth, follow-up interviews.

After the survey, the project will examine the unique challenges that Christians (including  moderate, conservative and liberal Protestants and Catholics) face in their workplaces and careers; how their faith does or does not address such challenges; and the best ways clergy and others may attend to these challenges. 

“For many, work is the single largest time commitment in life,” said Elaine Howard Ecklund, the Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences at Rice and the study’s principal investigator. “And for many, faith and faith community are the most meaningful commitments in life. Understanding how people integrate these two facets of life is the core purpose of this research.”

Ecklund, who is also the director of Rice’s Religion and Public Life Program and a Rice Scholar at the Baker Institute for Public Policy, will collaborate with Denise Daniels, a professor of management in the School of Business, Government and Economics at Seattle Pacific University.

“Our goal is that detailed data collection and carefully designed outreach efforts will put easy-to-understand data into the hands of as many U.S. clergy as possible and create networks of clergy who are trained to meet the spiritual needs of working men and women from various demographic groups, across multiple occupational domains and at various income levels,” Ecklund said.

Daniels said the study will provide the first broad baseline to inform Lilly Endowment about the opportunities for and challenges associated with how individuals understand how faith informs their work, and what congregations and their leaders may do to support the appropriation of faith to daily work among the congregation. Lilly Endowment is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 that exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development.

Ecklund, who is a scholar of religion in public life, said this is her first project to examine how religious people negotiate the relationship between faith and work. Her previous work has focused on how scientists think about religion, gender and science, and about medicine and religion. For more information on Ecklund’s work, visit www.elainehowardecklund.com/.

Daniels, a scholar of leadership and faith, has served as associate dean and interim dean of the Business School at Seattle Pacific University and has worked widely as a consultant on leadership for many different organizations.




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