The Reporter
No 490, 19 May 2003
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From Manchester United to the divine – bringing spirituality into the curriculum

 

Do you work to live, or live to work? Is your work a vocation, or just a way to earn money to let you live your ‘real’ life? University chaplain Revd Simon Robinson believes our working lives are too often separated from the rest of our lives. He wants to help students unite the two, by showing them how to bring meaning and purpose to both through spirituality. The special modules he’s helped to develop at the chaplaincy have made Leeds the first university in the UK to incorporate spirituality into the undergraduate curriculum.

Healthcare studies is the first school to introduce a full elective module, looking at the relevance of spirituality to employability and the importance of spirituality and ethics in the profession. It follows on from a life skills module run by the chaplaincy, covering personal development, spirituality and employability. Special study modules looking at spirituality have been run in medicine since 2000. Although all are chaplaincy initiatives, the modules are based very clearly on spirituality not religion, two very different concepts, as Simon Robinson is keen to point out.

Clement Katulushi and Simon Robinson

Playing their part – Clement Katulushi and Simon Robinson (l-r)

“Spirituality can include religion, but it is not limited to religion,” he said. “Spirituality is about awareness of, and the capacity to respond to, the other, which can be anything from the divine to Manchester United. Spirituality gives our lives meaning, through faith, hope and purpose and through our relationships with others.”

Chaplaincy administrative officer Dr Clement Katulushi believes spirituality can provide students with understanding and useful skills, valued highly by employers.

“The ability to appreciate and be aware of the other, which is a key part of spirituality, helps in all dealings with people in work situations, be those colleagues or clients,” he said. “The modules encourage critical reflection, better understanding of relationships, motivation and purpose, impacting on teamwork, workplace dynamics, negotiation and in setting objectives or writing mission statements.”

In September, the first elective module in healthcare studies will look at how health and healing relate to spirituality. Set up in collaboration with healthcare lecturer Revd Alan Brown, the module will cover how nurses and healthcare professionals experience spirituality, and how enabling spirituality in the patient could improve their response to the therapeutic process.
The module will be supported by a book to be published later this year, co-authored by Simon Robinson, Alan Brown and by nursing lecturer Kevin Kendrick, who sadly died in 2001.

“There’s a tendency within medicine and healthcare to only think of spirituality as being relevant to patients close to death,” said Simon Robinson. “In fact, spirituality can be important in helping professionals deal with their work, and in all patients, by providing meaning and purpose to life. This can be especially important when working with children.”

September also sees the launch of a new engineering module looking at ethics and the profession, which Simon Robinson helped to develop. He is also an author in this field; his book ‘The decision makers – ethics for engineers’, co-authored with senior lecturer in civil engineering Ross Dixon and James Armstrong, is to be adapted as a text- book for the module. From controversial dam projects in developing countries to endangered species threatened by a new motorway, the course looks at the difficult decisions faced by civil engineers and provides an ethical framework to help to evaluate alternative courses of action to reach decisions.

“We’ve been working closely with the departments to introduce these modules, and ensure their relevance within the degree structure,” said Simon Robinson. “There’s scope for further courses, in other areas of engineering and in science, which we’d be happy to consider.”

Just as the students who’ve taken the modules will take a better understanding of spirituality into the organisations they later work for, so the University itself will gain in a spiritual sense from the modules, Simon Robinson believes.

“Like any other organisation, the University has its own spirituality, expressed in part through its policies, codes of practice and rituals, and through how it envisions the future. Spirituality is about development, it’s an ongoing journey or story, and that’s true of the University as a whole as it is of each of us as individuals.”

 
 


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