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U.Va. Students Aim To Nurture Spirit As Well As Mind

April 9, 2001-- Contradicting the stereotype that college life involves more partying than praying, many University of Virginia students do show a serious interest in their spirituality. April's major religious holidays highlight students' year-round involvement with organizations that round out this part of their campus life.

  • Connecting with Fellow Believers

Some of the most popular outlets for spiritual exploration on U.Va.'s Grounds are the numerous student-run religious groups. During the 2000-2001 school year, the Student Council officially recognized at least four such organizations, bringing the total to 35.

One new group reflects a desire to model religious beliefs in the professional world. Nurses’ Christian Fellowship "provides an opportunity to learn more about spiritual issues on a personal level as well as…providing spiritual care to patients," says member Megan Woodruff.

The newly recognized organization Tuesday Praise began in the fall of 1998 with three students meeting to pray and sing Christian worship songs. Now every Tuesday night 125 to 300 students gather. "Tuesday Praise gives students a chance to extol the Father through praise songs, scripture and prayer," says president Stephen Phelan.

Established organizations like the Greater Hillel Council, the Muslim Students Association and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship report general membership increases over the past three years. Part of their appeal is rooted in attention to religious traditions. Student Melinda Moshell credits Hillel for "providing a spiritual place for Jewish students to pray on Shabbat and High Holidays."

For more information, contacts include Woodruff at, Phelan at, Hillel via Moshell at, the Muslim Students

Association via Bilal Aslam at, and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at

  • Tackling Difficult Questions

Last fall the Center for Christian Study hosted the "Veritas Forum," a conference aimed at refuting arguments often used against Christianity. Crowds of approximately 350 students attended each of the four sessions.

Skip Burzumato, director of undergraduate ministries for the Center for Christian Study, believes the high-attendance numbers show U.Va. students are grappling with faith issues. "Many college-aged women and men are seeking meaning in their lives that does not necessarily begin and end with themselves," he said.

The conference "was a good way for students to come and hear thinking Christians speak to topics which have been troubling for many moderns, both inside and outside of the Christian church," Burzumato said.

For more information, contact Burzumato at (804) 817-1050 or

  • Reaching Out

Volunteering offers another means of spiritual fulfillment for some students, who often assist in service projects sponsored by religious groups. Certain causes hit particularly close to home. After India’s devastating January earthquake, the Hindu Students Council, along with the Indian Student Association, launched a drive to raise relief funds.

The volunteer group Nursing Students Without Borders brings students to third-world communities to teach and provide basic health care. "I hope we all come away with an even deeper appreciation for the community we are fortunate to live in, while appreciating our own potential," said Nursing Students Without Borders founder Michael Walden.

For more information about Nursing Students Without Borders, contact Walden at (804) 964-6997 or

Contact: Jessica Tyree, (804) 924-7116

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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