The Dating Project's Dr. Cronin Shares How This Strange Assignment Began

Dr. Kerry Cronin teaches philosophy and religion at Boston College, but in the upcoming Pure Flix film, The Dating Project, her ‘different’ assignment gets a special focus. Cronin assigns her students a chance to date for college credit, and the reasons for her assignment are rooted in a conversation from over a decade ago. 

“It’s kind of a weird story,” the professor admitted, chuckling. “It has to be the Holy Spirit and a bit of stumbling into it. Twelve to fourteen years ago, I was talking to a group of seniors about life after college. Only one had dated as they were preparing to graduate!”

“Now, I teach a Philosophy on Theology integrated course, asking questions like, What’s the best way to live? I started to ask them about culture and dating. They really wanted to talk about it. I was teaching a capstone seminar – I asked what about this area of your life? Would you be willing to go on a date if I made an assignment?”

Cronin realized that students were not dating because they did not want to ask someone (and be rejected) and they considered dating too expensive. “It was like they had no common sense about dating,” she chuckled. “Dating as a social script as something they could use was non-existent. So they’re left wondering and coming up with whacky ideas about dating.”

As a professor and someone who studies young people, Cronin saw that they would talk about their experiences if they were approached with a sense of humor, breaking down any sense of defensiveness. The students responded well if older students came back and shared their stories, in class and with others. Then they needed to complete the assignment.

The assignment isn’t haphazard but includes specific rules about how they’re to participate in the date and then evaluate it. After the date, they have to return to class and have a dialogue with Cronin and their classmates about the date, and write a three-page paper about it.  

Cronin admits that the change from dating to not-dating involves the current generation’s understanding about “hooking up.” She says that the term isn’t new, but that the definition has changed from one-night stands which were shameful to a degree to physical, non-emotional interactions that are acceptable. Dating, she says, asks us to actually get to know the other person and build a relationship. 
 
“Students tell me all of the time when they go on a one-hour date, how surprised they are at what could be asked or answered,” the professor revealed. “They’re shocked when the other person doesn't look at their phone!”

Somehow, The Dating Project brings back the humanity of romantic relationships, and asks how God might be involved. It’s a study in young adulthood, and one we all should be aware of, whether we’re young or not. 

The Dating Project is a Fathom Event in theaters on April 17.