Revealing Our “Wild” Experiment

A series of posts about a collaborative project at Wingate University, resulting in a first-year course called Food and Faith: Health and Happiness Around the Many Tables of Our Lives.

Donovan O. Schaefer’s Wild Experiment: Feeling Science and Secularism after Darwin (2022) sets out to dismantle the binary between feeling and thinking. It uses an excerpt from Charles Darwin’s 1863 letter to a botanist as an example: “for love of heaven, favour my madness & have some scraped off & sent me. I am like a gambler, & love a wild experiment.”

Darwin was stirred and led by his excitement much like we have been. For Darwin and ourselves, feeling and emotion are ways of making knowledge and learning a more sensual experience. Everything we learn is thus saturated with feelings of our whole sentient being, our universal self. We are both contributors and participants in life’s wild experimentation. Our series of blog posts displays how classrooms can transform when shaped by

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Vocation and Lutheran Higher Education

The latest issue of Intersections, published by the Network of ELCA Colleges and Universities (NECU), includes articles by colleagues at NetVUE schools about campus programs at their institutions. Entitled “Called and Empowered (and Assessed),” the Spring 2022 also includes a note from out-going editor (Jason Mahn, a contributor to this blog) and in-coming editor Colleen Windham-Hughes of California Lutheran University. As Jason states in his editor’s note, most of the essays summarize comments that were shared at the 2022 NetVUE Conference in Dallas this March, and/or at the NECU gathering that preceded the NetVUE Conference.

Contents of Spring 2022 Intersections.


Jason writes, “As the authors here testify, grants and guidance from NetVUE have been instrumental in supporting their work. At the same time, Lutheran institutions—with our uniquely historical and contemporary commitments to educate for vocation— have provided noteworthy leadership within these wider networks. I think that part of the work ahead of us is to own and live into that leadership role.” The issue can be downloaded here.

A fire that burns but does not burn us out

Remember that booth from the Peanuts cartoons where Lucy used to offer Charlie Brown psychiatric care for five cents? That’s roughly where Moses is halfway through the Book of Exodus, sitting in his wilderness booth, chin in hand, the leader of a newly formed nation of ex-slaves spending his days fielding endless disputes.

It does make you wonder what quarrels the Israelites raised in the wilderness. How do you make a class action lawsuit about manna? How do you have a meaningful dispute about sandals that never wear out?

But humans gotta human. And I confess that on most days in 2022, I would gladly take a number and stand in line for some Mosaic adjudication.

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Familismo, success, and service to others

In my last post, I considered how approaching students of color from a deficit perspective (focusing on what preparation, skills, motivations, or resources they might lack) can be harmful to them and detrimental to the mentoring relationship, especially in the situation when the mentor is white. This focus does not recognize the assets that students have and which they bring with them to campus. Tara Yosso has identified six distinct forms of capital forming what she has termed “community cultural wealth,” a robust framework for thinking about the student experience. This model moves away from a more narrow, individualized understanding of assets and capital to a broader understanding, one based on the history and lived experience of communities of color. In this post, I want to focus on two forms, aspirational capital and familial capital, and how they come together to help students in navigating the world of college (and beyond). As David Pérez has shown in his work, this is especially the case with Latino male college students, who put a high premium on family (or familismo).

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Soaring Sophomores: A Pilot Course

The start of fall semester on a college campus brings a special feeling of excitement. But sophomore students face new and different challenges in year two of college. How might vocational exploration help sophomores not only persist but soar? I developed a 2-credit hour course called “Exploring Life Purpose and Your Major” to help students dive into their major while asking big life questions.

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Let Us Break Bread Together

A series of posts about a collaborative project at Wingate University, resulting in a first-year course called Food and Faith: Health and Happiness Around the Many Tables of Our Lives. This is the second of a two-part post; click here for part one.

At Wingate, our approach to Service Learning and Community Engagement (SLCE) is supported by three principles: academic integrity (direct connection of course content with community engagement); student ownership (a student voice in course and project development); and apprentice citizenship (address real problems by learning alongside community partners). The first year Food and Faith course will be a community engaged course and involve all three principles.

Will a community engaged pedagogy have the desired results, namely a positive impact on our students and their vocation pilgrimage as planetary citizens?

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Re-Imagining Life Together (Staying with the Trouble)

A series of posts about a collaborative project at Wingate University, resulting in a first-year course called Food and Faith: Health and Happiness Around the Many Tables of Our Lives.

This third blog in our series will explore how our pedagogy reflects our belief in Earth’s entangled banks as a source of wisdom. We model our course design and teaching on our belief that we are all interdependent beings living in webs of relations and education for vocation is a co-creative process. We thrive when we live and learn by re-membering these elements of our identities as individuals and societies. This post will focus on our nature as co-creative creatures and how to teach with co-creativity as a guiding principle.

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Richard T. Hughes on grace and the paradoxes of vocation

Richard T. Hughes

In the latest episode of NetVUE’s podcast series, Callings, we talk with Richard Hughes about his long career as a scholar and teacher. Richard has a new book out, a “memoir of sorts,” which chronicles both his own vocational story and the trajectory of his work on Christianity in the U.S. In our conversation, Richard graciously shares significant moments of rejection and criticism in his life and how these made him reconsider his most deeply held beliefs. He reflects on the influence of Victor Frankl, Robert Bellah, James Noel, and Martin Marty on his life and work, and encourages listeners to consider the paradox of how “losing one’s self” can be a gift.

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The Problem with Colorblind Mentoring

Malcolm X described an early encounter with an English teacher as marking one of the major turning points in his life. In response to Mr. Ostrowski’s inquiry about what the young man was considering as a possible career, young Malcolm surprised himself by saying, “I’ve been thinking I’d like to be a lawyer.” The “reddish white man” with the thick moustache told him that he needed to be realistic and suggested Malcolm go into carpentry.

This excerpt from The Autobiography of Malcolm X is included in the first edition of Leading Lives That Matter in a section that addresses the influence of advice from others when considering vocation (“To Whom Should I Listen?”). The scene makes a reader cringe to imagine the situation and its implications, and the take-away seems clear. Thankfully, young Malcolm did not listen to the advice.

The strategy of “colorblindness” arose in part as a way to deal with the racist attitudes of the Mr. Ostrowskis of the world. In a “colorblind” society, as Omi and Winant in Racial Formation in the United States put the point, “racial inequality, racial politics, and race-consciousness itself would be greatly diminished in importance, and indeed relegated to the benighted past when discrimination and prejudice rules” (p. 22). But this imagined remedy often perpetuates racism by giving it a cover and does not sufficiently address the fact that racist attitudes are part of a larger racial system, a situation that Eduardo Bonilla-Silva has called “Racism without Racists.” In this post, I want to briefly consider some recent work about how colorblindness negatively impacts mentoring.

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