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Live To Inspire: Josh Packard ’00

July 22, 2015

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Growing up, Josh Packard was always interested in asking fundamental questions about life. His liberal arts education at Texas Lutheran University, and his ELCA upbringing, always encouraged him to think holistically across the board. After graduating with a B.A. in English from TLU, Packard ’00 received his master’s and Ph.D. in sociology from Vanderbilt.

As an assistant professor at the University of Northern Colorado, he weaves his own passion for research, religion, and how humans interact, into his curriculum. Fascinated by the sociology of religion, Packard’s latest book, Church Refugees: Sociologists Reveal Why People Are DONE With Church But Not Their Faith, uses data from research and interviews collected by Packard and co-author Ashleigh Hope to answer why individuals have and continue to leave the church.

“In this book, we address the issue of people who are retaining the identity of Christianity, but have made a core decision to disengage from the traditional institution of church,” Packard said. “We refer to them as Done’s. They’re different from the group we identify as None’s or those who claim no religious affiliation at all. We are really the first people to document the existence of the Done’s and tell their stories. I’ve always wanted my research to translate into the real world.”

Now a published author, Packard’s affinity for writing, he said, began at TLU. It was the skills he polished there that helped him pursue advanced degrees in sociology.

“I loved my English education at TLU,” Packard said. “I came away with the ability to write well and think critically. In sociology, we will survey employers on what skills they seek in potential employees. It’s things like problem solving, creativity, empathy, critical thinking, etc. TLU teaches students all of those.”

One of the best things about a TLU education, Packard said, is the opportunity to find out who you are and think holistically.

“I always tell students that college is what you make of it,” Packard said. “TLU offers all sorts of educational experiences. You’re not just learning what molecules bond with each other; you learn to problem solve and apply the things you learn in other areas. You learn that subjects like theology and dramatic media can actually connect and how to think clearly and carefully about other people’s ideas. I was able to find out what interested me and I would put the liberal arts education offered at TLU up against any other education.”

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