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Purpose – The purpose of this study is to explore working students’ perspectives on the inclusion of spiritual topics in graduate leadership and management programs at secular, nonreligious, and multifaith universities. The growth in interest in spiritual issues at work and in leadership and management education suggests that spiritual topics have a role to play in leadership and management education, but this has not been systematically researched from a student perspective. Design/methodology/approach – A total of 128 graduate students in leadership and management programs were surveyed using a 22-item rating scale-based questionnaire, with three additional open-ended items. Questions were developed from a survey of the literature. Findings – Descriptive analysis suggests support for the inclusion of spiritual components in courses but emphasizes students’ desire for an unbiased learning experience. Factor analysis not only revealed student perceptions being influenced by openness to and interest in the topic but also identified concern or fear when engaging others in the educational context. Analysis of qualitative results supported the quantitative findings but provided a richer understanding of students’ perceptions of benefits (e.g. diversity awareness) and concerns (e.g. student and instructor bias). Practical implications – This research suggests a role for spiritual topics in management and leadership programs, with appropriate caution, classroom facilitation skill and control of bias by instructors. Originality/value – This study provides a systematic exploration of students’ perspectives on the inclusion of spirituality in graduate leadership and management programs.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.