Vocational Narratives: Finding Meaning in Challenging Times

As students continue to navigate ever-changing, demanding times in higher education and the world, feeling a sense of purpose and control over one’s life is important. NetVUE’s Spring 2023 webinar on February 7 focused on vocational narratives as a creative and effective way to find meaning in challenging times. The webinar featured three speakers who discussed their experiences and strategies for integrating vocational narratives in our work with students.

Antonios Finitsis (top left); Esteban Loustaunau (top right);
Julie Yonker (bottom left); Rachel Pickett (bottom right)

Esteban Loustaunau serves as director of the SOPHIA Program and director of the Center for Purpose and Vocation at Assumption University in Worcester, MA, where he is also a professor of Spanish. Esteban shared how the SOPHIA program and the course titled “Figure of the Seeker” connects current students with alumni. He discussed the value of students learning from alumni as well as the program’s initiative to create a university blog to showcase interviews and the narrative work around vocation.

The second speaker was Antonios Finitsis, director of the Wild Hope Center for Vocation and a professor of Hebrew Bible at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA. Tony discussed how he uses a narrative assignment focusing on the biblical story of Jacob to encourage students to see their vocational path as one that is in progress. He focused on the building blocks of ambition, opportunity, love, and faith.

The final speaker was Julie Yonker, who serves as the Public Health program director and professor of psychology at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, MI. Julie talked about vocation as a lifelong process of turning in to God’s call and understanding one’s identity in Christ. She shared her personal narrative and addressed how we can serve as models for students. She focused on resilience and coping with misfortune.

The concluding 30 minutes of the webinar were dedicated to questions from participants. These included questions about the specific approaches to integrating vocation and narrative techniques in the classroom and institutional initiatives on the topic. Additional NetVUE resources were also provided: Callings episodes on Close Readings, Expanded Horizons and Wrestling with the Angel, as well as blog articles on Vocation as Stories We Tell Ourselves About Ourselves, Narrative Expectations, Telling Our Students’ Stories, Telling Our Future Stories: Hope, Loss, and Possibility, and “Learning to Do it Well”: Life, Love, and Work in Middlemarch.

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.

Rachel F. Pickett is the webinar coordinator for NetVUE.

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