Working on vocation
Grant to aid campus discussion
BLUFFTON, Ohio—Bluffton University is again going to work on vocation with the aid of a $10,000 grant administered by its Center for Career and Vocation (CCV).
More specifically, the university has received a $10,000 professional development award from the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE). And the award will help fund a project, called Renewing Vocation through Innovation, Vision and Exploration (reVIVE), that organizers hope will lead to increased faculty and staff engagement about vocation.
“Bluffton has such a long and rich history of engaging students around the idea of vocation,” says Shari Ayers, the project administrator and CCV director. The Pathways to Mission and Vocation program, created by a $2 million grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. in 2003, “is a great example, but there are other places in the curriculum, in student life and in cross-cultural experiences where students reflect on those big questions of purpose, calling, community and service,” she says.
Ayers leads a four-member steering committee that felt “this was the perfect time on Bluffton’s campus for a time of renewal around vocation,” she adds.
Much of the new award will go toward vocational research mini-grants of $500 and $250, and for purchase of books for group discussions of “New Books in Vocation and the Liberal Arts.”
Faculty and staff will be invited to apply for the mini-grants, which can be used for such purposes as reviewing resources for a class or a student organization, or independent research on a vocationally directed topic of interest.
Also part of the program are three training workshops for faculty and staff and a culminating, conference-like event where, among other things, mini-grant recipients will share their findings.
The training workshops will focus on equipping faculty and staff to serve as “faith mentors” and vocational resources for students; the vocational aspect of academic advising; and supporting supervisors of student employees.
The Pathways program “helped direct the vocational imagination of a generation of graduates, as well as that of faculty and staff,” notes the university’s NetVUE award proposal. Some elements of the Pathways program remain, including $1,500 discovery grants, which are awarded to students for four-to-six weeks of vocational discernment during the summer.
However, “there is a new generation of students with different needs, experiences and expectations about vocation,” the new proposal continues. “The language of ‘vocation’ (both on campus and in the larger society) has become more ambiguous and complex.”
The proposal goes on to identify three initiatives that have had “a profound effect on campus culture” in the last two years. They were:
∙ A year of “retooling” in 2013-14, when faculty, in their administrative committee work, focused on renewal of classroom teaching and innovative approaches to course development and evaluation.
∙ Participation in a spring 2014 study of faith mentoring coordinated by Mennonite colleges and universities.
∙ Introduction last fall of the “Creating Together” initiative, in which faculty and staff have crossed departments and divisions “to find new ways to fulfill our mission.”
Now, Ayers says, the goal of reVIVE is “to give us all a chance to engage some new ideas on the topic of vocation; test our common (or uncommon) language about vocation; support one another in our own vocational journeys, as well as in our daily work; and dream a little about what might benefit the next generation of students as they ask those big questions.”
Through the project—also made possible through the support of the Council of Independent Colleges and the Lilly Endowment Inc.—organizers expect to see measurable increases in faculty/staff engagement in all areas of the program.
“We hope that every member of the faculty and staff has the chance to participate in at least one piece of the program,” Ayers says. “In addition, we hope to emerge from this year of renewal with a shared language of vocation and concrete strategies for revising our student-focused programming.”
“Bluffton has such a long and rich history of engaging students around the idea of vocation,” says Shari Ayers, the project administrator. The Pathways to Mission and Vocation program, created by a $2 million grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. in 2003, “is a great example, but there are other places in the curriculum, in student life and in cross-cultural experiences where students reflect on those big questions of purpose, calling, community and service,” she says.