Transitions: Navigating Vocations in an Uncertain Present

Photo by Brian Ammons

Faculty and staff have welcomed returning students back to campus and to the virtual classroom, with each week bringing new concerns and challenges. These multiple uncertainties create stress, anxiety, and worry. Students are likely asking significant vocational questions—How do I find purpose amidst new learning and living environments ? How do I take care of myself and others? What is this teaching me about my present and future vocation? NetVUE hosted a webinar on September 22 with three speakers who discussed experiences and strategies of how we can care for students, each other, and ourselves as we navigate this uncertain present.  

Kara Baylor (middle below) serves as Campus Pastor and Director of the Center for Faith and Spirituality at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Kara’s presentation focused on the mental, emotional, and physical shifts that we experience in times of transition. Naming the changes that we are experiencing, and embracing the sense of discomfort and dislocation, aid in an adjustment to the different environment. Kara emphasized the notion of being intentional in the ways we respond to the various shifts. Specifically, she pointed to the definition of pilgrimage offered by Marty Storz, which suggests pilgrimage as “intentional dislocation for the sake of transformation where the body teaches the soul.” More of Kara’s insights can be found at www.pissedoffpastor.org, which was featured in this blog post.

Courtney Dorroll (above right) is an Assistant Professor of Religion and Middle Eastern and North African Studies at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Wofford’s NetVUE Professional Development Grant facilitated training in self-care for faculty and staff, asking the question “How do we care for our faculty and staff so that they can model and extend that care to students?” In her presentation, Courtney articulated ways and reasons to incorporate self-care pedagogy into curriculum, shared various applications of self-care approaches to her own fall courses, and emphasized that she  had to unlearn many of the norms that surround attendance, grading, and stigma of self-care language. Some may find her “health and wellness statement” helpful to add to syllabi.* Resources for self-care pedagogy and promoting a culture of care campus-wide can also be found in Wofford’s Resilience Tool Kit.  

{Courtney’s colleague at Wofford, Trina Jones, reflected on the need for “care for the caregivers” in this blog post from last fall.}

The third speaker was Brian Ammons (pictured left above), Chaplain and Director of Spiritual Life at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, North Carolina. Brian’s presentation centered on the ways to consider vocational exploration as a type of pilgrimage, based in part of his own walking of the Camino de Santiago. Brian explained that the skills one learns on the camino—carrying less, embracing the tedium of the journey as beautiful, and reverencing and listening to our bodies—provides a focused, simple approach to our current moment. A regular question on the camino, “how are your feet?” is a metaphor for communal care and support of each other, both physically and spiritually. Brian emphasized that our approach to transition include a consideration of how we take “the pilgrim way” into our approach to new experiences and expanding our notion of purposeful living.  He says, “it may not look like we expected, yet something beautiful will still be there.” 

{For more on connections between walking the camino and vocation, see Rebecca Lahti’s three-part reflection: “Preparation and Decision-Making,” “Letting Go of Expectations,” and “The Gift of Space.”}

The concluding 30 minutes of the webinar were dedicated to questions from the participants. This included questions about the specific approaches to integrating specific practices of self-care (including the app Marco Polo and the episode from “On Being” on “The Disease of Being Busy”).  Panelists also shared ways students are dealing with transition, the benefits of slowing down, and challenging the idea that we should return to “normal.”  

The webinar was recorded and can be accessed here. Please note that when you go to this link, it will prompt you to share your name and email address, but this is not a login; it simply allows NetVUE to keep track of interest. You are unlikely to receive any follow-up emails unless you are at a NetVUE member institution. However, if you do, you’ll have the opportunity to unsubscribe. 

*The resources mentioned by Courtney Dorroll, including her syllabus statement, can be found in the online library of the NetVUE community page. See the folder labelled Digital Media for the link to the recorded webinar and accompanying materials. Access to the page requires a log-in.

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