The Calling of Place

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Jill Ker as a child in Australia

Several years ago, The Road From Coorain was one of the featured texts in our first year seminar. The first ten or so pages offer a detailed description of the author’s natal land of Australia, and some of the students complained that it went on “way too long” and was boring. When the author, Dr. Jill Ker Conway, visited campus and delivered a convocation address, she suggested that they consider the landscape as one of the characters in the book, which gave the smarter students pause and forced them to reconsider the work. I was reminded of this pedagogical moment recently when I heard the news that Dr. Ker Conway had passed away. She was a remarkable woman and while I could easily devote a whole essay to her autobiography as well as her accomplishments, what I want to focus on is how particular places can give shape and meaning to our lives. Continue reading

Listen up! How Good is Your Listening Quotient?

Have you ever taken, or taught, a listening course?

Neither have I.

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Detail from Salvador Dali’s Galatea of the Spheres (1952)

From the beginnings of education, the 3 R’s (“Reading, Riting, and Arithmetic”) dominate the curriculum in one form or another. Speech gets some attention in later years, but not much. Listening gets almost no place. According to a 2012-2013 survey, out of approximately 7,700 undergraduate institutions in the U. S. (which must surely offer hundreds of thousands of classes), only 181 courses in listening were taught. We might want to rethink this hierarchy, enhancing listening as a field and offering more classes in it—or at least developing modules around listening skills in more of our classes. Continue reading

5 Ways Faculty Can Connect Vocation to Career Services

Faculty play an instrumental role in speaking about the theoretical aspects of vocation, whether it be leading class discussions on the topic, introducing students to relevant literature, or mentoring them on a specific career path.  However, liberal arts colleges are frequently criticized for leaving these discussions philosophical and not urging students to think about the nuts and bolts about getting a job.  This is why there has been a larger move across the country for colleges and universities to integrate career services more fully with the academic mission of their institutions.  Here are five practical ways that faculty can connect vocation to career services:

First, bring Career Services and internships up in advising sessions. Advising sessions are ideal in helping students figure out their degree requirements and encouraging students to reflect on larger questions regarding vocation and discernment. However, advising sessions can also be helpful for students to think more practically about the steps they need to take to land a job.  For instance, faculty can gently ask students whether they have thought about what they are going to do in the summer and whether they have explored internship deadlines.  These questions are particularly helpful in the Fall since many summer internship deadlines are months before the actual internship starts, something that students may be unaware of.

Second, plan a field trip to Career Services. It is one thing to encourage your students to visit Career Services but it is another to actually plan a field trip there.  In my first-year seminar course, I make it a habit of ending some classes early and leading field trips to various parts of the campus, from the counseling to the career center. After we would walk to the office, a staff member welcomes us and then introduces what services they provide. Students frequently mentioned that these trips were helpful because they would not have travelled to the places otherwise.  Once they physically visited the Center, they were more comfortable in coming again.

Third, invite a member of Career Services to speak in your class. Career Service staff often have a wealth of knowledge and practical advice to share. I had a Career Service staff person speak in my first-year class about how to give a presentation and make a four-year plan.  These skills are not only helpful on the job market but also transferable to being a good liberal arts student.  Inviting Career Service staff to speak in your class could help develop relationships and learn more about what their office is up to.

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From “Getting the Most Out of Guest Experts…” (Faculty Focus, 2015).

Fourth, organize an alumni panel through Career Services. Faculty may be in touch with their previous students but may not know the various alumni who are active in helping students across the campus. Career Services frequently have a database of alumni which can be a potential resource to your teaching.  One time I led a trip to Washington DC and Career Services helped me get in touch with some alumni that had recently spoken on campus.  Meeting the alumni in DC was one of the highlights of the trips as the students immediately connected with them and their experiences.

Finally, have a member of Career Services be a co-advisor to one of your classes. Allegheny College has a great tradition of pairing up staff with First-Year seminar faculty.  While the faculty continue to lead and teach the class, the staff members are “co-advisors” in helping students pick their classes and adjust to college.  I was fortunate to be paired with our Director of Career Education and he was excellent in participating in class discussions and giving presentations on various life-skills.  The students really connected with him with some eventually working in his office.

Faculty play an important role in helping students reflect on big picture questions and in thinking critically about their life-goals and purpose.  Career Services can help actualize our work, especially if we have developed strong relationships with the office through consultations and projects.  Our students ultimately benefit from the bridges that we have already built with our colleagues in Career Services.


Younus Mirza is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Allegheny College. He is the author of “Doubt as an Integral Part of Calling: The Qur’anic Story of Joseph” which will appear in the volume Hearing Vocation Differently: Meaning, Purpose, and Identity in the Multi-Faith Academy, edited by David S. Cunningham (Oxford, 2019). To learn more about his scholarship and teaching, please check out his website at