May Their Memory be a Blessing

Following their respective deaths in August, the news recently has included remembrances of Aretha Franklin (1942-2018) and John McCain (1936-2018). Through various tributes, we get a sense of their lives as well as their social and cultural significance. This has been followed by commentary about what makes for an appropriate way to remember someone after their passing. (Is such second-order critique inevitable or is it another symptom of our cultural divide?). We learn something about our collective life in these moments.

Whether it is an internationally known figure or a “local hero,” reflecting upon how we remember great men and women can be instructive. Eulogies are an important form of articulating what we understand to be a good life.  Continue reading

“Well begun is half done.”

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Professor Peter Frederick

It was Peter Frederick, retired historian and beloved teaching guru from Wabash College, who introduced me to the significance of the first day of class. His advice was straightforward, almost obvious, the way plain truths often are. And yet, as a new teacher, caught up in my own nervousness, concerned with the syllabus and making a good first impression, I had not fully appreciated how important it was to set a tone and allay student fears during that first meeting at the beginning of a new term.

On the first day, Peter reminds us, students are wondering about three things: the teacher (does the teacher care? are they fair? competent?); the course (is this course for me? will it be useful? relevant? appropriate?); and, finally, about their classmates (who are these other students in the class?). Peter further stresses the importance of getting into the course material on that very first day and has some good strategies for how to do that. Continue reading

Facing the Uncertain Future

For those committed to the mission of a liberal arts education, it’s hard not to feel a little defensive these days. The liberal arts seem besieged on all fronts. Critics look in from the outside to question whether institutions are really delivering what they promise. Others wonder about the price tag, which can be steep—even when factoring in scholarships and other forms of aid (as does Money Magazine’s list of 2018-2019 college rankings). Continue reading

The importance of what we care about

Prospective students and their families have a lot of factors to consider when looking at colleges. Campus facilities, program offerings, financial aid packages, location, and that amorphous element referred to as “fit” — these are often what drive decision-making when it comes to the college search.

It’s an important decision, indeed it’s a crucial moment in one’s much larger vocational journey. And it’s a decision that is made under the specter of a kind of skepticism about whether the price-tag is even worth it. “What is the value of a college education these days, anyway?”

In a recent piece in the Washington Post, Jim Troha, the President of Juniata College in Pennsylvania, advised students and families to consider value in an altogether different way, by asking, instead, what are the values of a particular college? Continue reading

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

Pomp & Circumstance

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https://www.theodysseyonline.com/graduation-speech-for-college-graduates

May is the season for commencement addresses, a genre of writing often marked by platitudes and clichés, personal anecdotes that are of questionable relevance, and hyperbole about the significance of this historical moment or the potential of this year’s graduating class. As people tied to the rhythms and rituals of the academic year, over the span of a career we are exposed to dozens of such speeches. Since most graduation speeches are utterly forgettable, it’s difficult not to become somewhat cynical about them. And yet, they often touch upon important messages about vocation, and so it’s worthwhile to stop and think about the genre and function of the graduation speech. Continue reading

The Way of Vocation – some thoughts for new college grads

There is a new post at Relevant.com that will be of interest to many in the NetVUE community, entitled “So you just graduated from college, now what?”  Drew Moser, Associate Professor in Higher Education and Dean of Experiential Learning at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, offers some helpful insights for new college graduates. “The way of vocation,” Moser argues, is the better alternative to the approach of “simply living it up” or the pressure to “figure it out right away.”

New college grads are indeed given such advice, sometimes conflicting in nature and much of it problematic. Moser’s concerns about “living it up” overlap with what Meg Jay argued in The Defining Decade, a book that has been used effectively in vocation classes. (If you are not familiar with her book, Jay also has a popular Ted talk, “Why 30 is not the new 20”).

Yet Jay’s analysis lacks any attention to spiritual or religious commitments, and so Moser’s new book, co-written with Jess Fankhauser and titled Ready or Not: Leaning Into Life in Our Twenties (2018), could potentially work even more effectively or as a text to augment others. A short review from Publisher’s Weekly concluded this about the book: “Though the tone is light throughout, Moser and Fankhauser provide many jumping-off points for deep contemplation about a wide range of fraught areas for those starting adulthood. Christian readers setting out into the wilds of adulthood will find this a helpful guide.”

If thinking deeply about vocation is the best antidote to the questionable advice given to new college graduates, and to helping alleviate some of their natural anxiety during this time of transition, all the more reason why they should be supported in those reflections through well-planned, substantive programs throughout their time on campus!