Stan L. Albrecht, dean of the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences at Brigham Young University, will be the commencement speaker for the 113th annual graduation ceremonies at BYU.
His address will be part of ceremonies that will begin at 9 a.m. April 22 in the Marriott Center.Much of his talk will center on research about members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding how higher education relates to levels of religiosity.
His findings and those of his Sociology Department colleague, associate professor Tim B. Heaton, indicate that the higher the education for members of the LDS faith, the higher the level of religious participation, as measured by such factors as tithing payment, prayer, gospel study and expressed personal belief.
These findings differ significantly from the emergence of a large body of literature promoting the general thesis that we live in an age of irreverence.
"Religion, according to this view," says Albrecht, "has lost its `presence' as a major social force in society; it has become less visible, less public and less important in the lives of people."
This argument originates from a concept that modernization, urbanization and industrialization contribute to secularization. The decline in religion has been linked with the rise of science; and increased attention to "scientific" explanations begins to replace faith in revelation and tradition.
"For many, the real bogeyman in this whole process is the modern university," says Albrecht. In his Commencement speech, he will discuss studies reaching back as far as the 1930s that support evidence of a possible connection between college attendance and loss of religious faith and the idea that the higher the level of education, the lower the level of reported religious belief or experience.
Albrecht will then contrast that information with data on the relationship between education and religious belief and commitment among Latter-day Saints and include a series of graphs and charts to illustrate the research.
"Contrary to what we have seen with studies of other churches, the impact of increased education on religious beliefs and commitment of Latter-day Saints is unequivocally positive," he says.
He will share several observations from the study, including the evidence that religious performance is higher for both public and private expressions of religiosity; that those with degrees from non-LDS institutions of higher learning still have higher rates of activity than those without college experience; that these relationships are not unique to Utah; and that one's church assignment has an impact on religiosity.
Albrecht, a professor of sociology and former recipient of a Karl G. Maeser Research and Creative Arts Award, has served as dean of the Family, Home, and Social Science College since 1985.
Much of his recent research deals with religion. He studies such topics as who joins religions and who leads religion groups, along with other dimensions of religiosity.
He has published extensively in professional journals and is the author of several profession-related books. On the basis of his international leadership in research on social impact assessment, he was appointed to the Utah State MX Missile System Advisory Committee and later to a U.S. congressional panel to study alternative modes of basing the MX missiles.
He has been president of the Rural Sociological Society, and his research and writing on rural sociology contributed to his selection as editor of the major journal in his field. It is the first time that the editorship of "Rural Sociology" has been located at a university that is not part of the federal land grant network.
Albrecht received a bachelor's degree in sociology from BYU and a master's degree and doctorate in sociology from Washington State University.