Belonging and retention: it’s not rocket science

A recent article in the Chronicle offers what may be a needed reminder about the importance of advising and the role it plays in fostering a sense of belonging for students. Aaron Basko, who previously worked at Salisbury University and is now assistant assistant vice president for enrollment management at the University of Lynchburg, wonders whether we have gotten student success “completely backward.” In our efforts to apply “complex technocratic approaches” to the problem of student retention, Basko writes, we forget to consider what makes students stay.

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Jason Mahn on Neighbor Love

During the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jason Mahn (Augustana College, IL) began chronicling his “wondering and wanderings,” which are now published under the title Neighbor Love Through Fearful Days: Finding Purpose and Meaning in a Time of Crisis (Fortress, 2021). Some of his early musings on these themes appeared on this blog as “Neighboring and Sheltering in Place” (April 2020); “The Economy and Ecology of Neighbor Love” (May 2020); and “What An Unjust World Also Needs; Connecting Vocation and Activism” (July 2020).

In a new episode on the NetVUE podcast, we talk with Jason about his “in the moment” reflections about how we commit ourselves to loving our neighbors during times of social distancing, quarantine, protest, and social unrest. He writes about the threat of white supremacy, the challenges of repentance, and the importance of mundane acts. Jason urges us to resist stories that are too tidy in their resolution. 

Click here to listen to our conversation with Jason about “Neighbor Love.”

Jason Mahn is Conrad Bergendoff Chair in the Humanities and director of the Presidential Center for Faith and Learning at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. He was a contributor to NetVUE’s second scholarly resources project volume, Vocation across the Academy. He is also a member of the NetVUE Advisory Council. To read Jason’s posts on this blog, including “The Tragedy of the Road Not Taken” which is among the most-read posts on this site, click here.

Queer Embodiment in a Vocational Journey

Queer individuals are called to perceive a truth inside themselves, name it as an identity marker, reckon with it, tell the truth about it even in the face of hostility, find others who perceive a comparable identity marker, and build community for the betterment of all of us. That, to me, is the essence of a spiritual journey. It is more than that. In my faith tradition, we refer to this as a call. It is a vocation.

Rev. Elizabeth M. Edman, Queer Virtue (2016).

I have often wondered about the role that queer identity can make in a person’s vocational discernment. In what ways does queer identity become an integral part of how one discerns, what that discernment looks like, and the result of the discernment process? What is the role of eros, desire, and the body in the process of vocational discernment? Most, importantly, how can we educate students in their vocational journey to embrace an embodied discernment that includes gender, sexuality, and passion?

For any person, the process of what I have named “becoming-selfhood-in-relation” comes into being through the integration of many factors— body, mind, and spirit, as well as through social context, culture, history, and social location factors (Embracing Disruptive Coherence, p. xi). For LGBTQIA+ persons there is an added step in a vocational journey: understanding and embracing an identity awareness in relation to the hetero-normativities that exist in society, and making peace with both its disruptiveness and its capacity to create more internal coherence. For LGBTQIA+ persons, a vocational calling is discerned most fully and clearly within the integration of their vocational journey with the process of their queer identification, which is deeply connected to an awareness of gender and sexuality in their lives. Thus, queer embodiment—the visible awareness and manifestation of their queer bodies, desires, and identities—must be an integral part of their vocational discernment.

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