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In September of 2015, I asked a classroom full of the next generation of leaders and scholars in higher education to identify a specific student population that had been largely overlooked or underserved in higher education; they chose college atheists. Although religion and spirituality are deeply personal topics and still considered taboo in many classrooms, each of the participants in this class openly and actively grappled with the challenge of building an evidence-based understanding of students with whom they may have felt a secret kinship – or a historical distrust. Whatever their initial feelings, however, the authors of this report embody the sentiment that higher education is a place where evidence outweighs instinct, and where effective educators seek first to understand their students, and then to advocate on their behalf. I urge each of us to do the same for all of our student populations, especially those who have been historically overlooked or underserved in higher education.
Dr. Bradley E. Cox, January 12, 2016