This semester, three Georgetown students attempted to gauge the values of the current college-aged generation through the Millennial Values Fellows program offered by the Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.
The fellowship culminated in the Millennial Values Symposium, a conference for students around the country to discuss the intersection of faith and moral values among the Millennial generation, which began on campus Thursday and continues through today.
As part of the symposium, the Berkeley Center and the Public Religion Research Institute released a survey of 2,000 college-age Millennials about the moral and religious values that inspire young adults and how those values impact their political views and voting preferences.
“The survey … provides insights into younger Millennials’ outlook on the future and explores significant shifts between their current religious affiliation and the religious tradition in which they were raised,” Berkeley Center Director Thomas Banchoff wrote in an email.
According to the results, which were published Thursday, the majority of the Millennial generation, a group that self-identifies as more diverse than the overall American population, cites jobs and unemployment as critical issues facing the United States.
The demographic also believes that economic reform is necessary to address economic disparities, wants at least some form of abortion to be legalized, supports gay marriage and advocates granting permanent legal status to undocumented immigrants through the DREAM Act.
Millennials are more divided, however, over their belief in the concept of the American Dream, their identification with political parties and who they currently favor for the 2012 presidential election.
“We’re getting a broad-based picture of what 20-somethings across the country think or believe in,” Millennial Fellow Colin Steele (SFS ’12) said. “The point will be to say … this is us, as we stand here at the cusp of taking some of our own authorship and ownership in decision-making, policy-making and leadership. We’re making a statement about what a sample of thoughtful 20-somethings say is important to us.”
College-aged Millennials are also divided in their thoughts about current racial tensions. According to the survey, 46 percent believe that the government has paid too much attention to the problems of minorities in the past decade, while 48 percent agree that discrimination against whites is as big a societal problem as discrimination against blacks.
“The goal is to get a better understanding of how our generation conceives of the intersection between politics, values and religion,” Millennial Fellow Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) said. “For our generation, there are a lot of conflicts with that intersection that have escalated. We have a vested interest in talking about why that intersection has come to the forefront of our lives.”
The 16 Millennial Values Fellows, students from universities across the United States, were chosen through a national competition after submitting blog posts reflecting a strong stance on issues affecting their generation.
In addition to the formal discussions, fellows are invited to a panel featuring authors Joshua Foer and Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts and founder of the Christian social justice organization Sojourners Jim Wallis, as well as a dinner with University President John J. DeGioia and Special Olympics CEO Tim Shriver.
The Berkeley Center plans to continue the dialogue by conducting another survey and repeating the fellowship program next fall.
According to Millennial Fellow Aamir Hussain (COL ’14), the survey and conference will demonstrate that the values of the current college generation are changing and diverse.
“It’s good to show that every generation is not monolithic,” he said. “They have different values.”