Vocational Exploration


$25,000 grant to support vocational exploration

Bluffton University’s mission is to “prepare students of all backgrounds for life as well as vocation.” During the 2016-17 academic year, the university will boost its efforts toward vocational exploration through The Venture Project, a program made possible through the generous support of the Council of Independent Colleges and the Lilly Foundation Inc. The Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVue) grant is worth $25,000.

“This grant places a strong focus on students,” said Shari Ayers, director of the Center for Career and Vocation. “We’re looking for ways to reengage students for vocational exploration. The old ways don’t always work anymore.”

The Venture Project will focus on two new initiatives: an experiential-and-service-learning piece and a component to integrate mentoring opportunities.

The first initiative will build upon a relationship with the Allen County Juvenile Detention Center, where Bluffton has already placed student interns, and incorporate the work of Dr. Walt Paquin, associate professor of social work, who is establishing and building relationships with civic and social service organizations in Lima, Ohio.

As for the second initiative, Bluffton already has a strong foundation of mentorship, however, the grant will “pull these elements together in a new and fully integrated way,” said Ayers. “We think we do a lot of really good vocational work with students in the classroom, on athletic teams, with clubs and organizations, in residence halls and in spiritual life, but what is needed is an overarching element that we can point to and say that’s the vocational work that’s being done on campus.”

This grant follows-up on work completed through a 2003 grant called Pathways to Mission and Vocation which was also funded by Lilly. Several aspects of the original Pathways program have become key features of Bluffton’s existing vocation-exploration efforts including the Summer Discovery Grant Program, the Civic Engagement Theme and Becoming a Scholar mentors.

The Summer Discovery Grant Program provides a $1,500 grant for students to design their own summer experience to explore the relationship between vocation and faith. Each year’s Civic Engagement theme is a contemporary issue that is related to the university’s mission and becomes the subject of cross-disciplinary exploration throughout the academic year. The 2016-17 theme is Creativity, the Arts and Civic Life. Becoming a Scholar is a required, first-year course designed to help students discover what it means to be a college-level learner. Each section has a class mentor who assists with both academic and social mentoring.