For the past ten years I have taught a course called Values and Vocation at Chicago Semester, an urban experiential education program that welcomes college students to Chicago to complete a semester-long internship experience and take urban studies courses. The mostly seniors and a few juniors that take my course are introduced to the idea of having a calling and thinking about where that calling might take them as they move on from Chicago and graduate from college. For most of the students, being in Chicago is a new experience – many of the students are living in a setting quite different from their college campuses, grappling with how to integrate themselves into a new place, while interning in a learning setting very unlike a college classroom. As they lean into this new place and these new experiences, they are simultaneously trying to conceptualize how their encounters in Chicago might inform their first steps after college. Continue reading
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!
Colleges and universities have always been places that espouse lofty values while, increasingly, they attempt to prove their worth to parents and students as places to prepare for paid employment. This bifurcation manifests itself in the area of student services on most campuses. Go in one door for career services and still others for spiritual counseling and community service. And, of course, you not only enter a different door but also a different building to find what most faculty think of as the real work of a university – research and teaching. The dominance of the division into academic disciplines and administrative compartments is hard to shake.
The movement to foster experiences, reflection, teaching, research, and publication on the subject of vocation, however, challenges the separation of different kinds of callings. In doing so, this movement enriches the lives of many. We can start paying real attention to what matters most in our lives and to the gifts we give and receive (inner calling) regardless of who is paying us and how much value others assign to it (outer calling). The word “vocation,” sometimes described as a voice within that resonates with an outer voice, can take us on a journey to places not usually associated with career preparation. We need to foster our avocations as well as our vocations. Continue reading
In his 2005 Stanford commencement address, Steve Jobs reflected upon his life: his birth and adoption, his early firing from Apple and marriage and then his scare with death after being diagnosed with cancer. The first part of the speech was dedicated to “connecting the dots” and to his early life and college experience. Like Jobs, our most successful students are able to “connect the dots” and take important risks. Continue reading
I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Kentaro Toyama back in February 2018 when he visited our campus for an engaging seminar on the role of technology in addressing social problems. Dr. Toyama is the W.K. Kellogg Associate Professor of Community Information at the University of Michigan, and his 2015 book, Geek Heresy, articulates what I consider “hard won” insight into the role of technology in society and, more specifically, how technology impacts social change.
Toyama began his career as a computer scientist working for Microsoft in their research division. If you have ever enjoyed the Kinect accessory in Microsoft’s XBox—the stereo imaging system that converts a player’s motion into real-time video game inputs—you are at least tangentially familiar with some of Toyama’s early research that led to the development of Kinect. Ultimately, though, Toyama found this work unfulfilling and a far cry from the idealism of his youth that had drawn him to the sciences in the first place. His original goal was to help solve the energy crisis. Continue reading
A number of theologians and ethicists have remarked on the fact that James Comey’s new book, A Higher Loyalty, opens with a quotation from Reinhold Niebuhr:
Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible.
Man’s capacity for injustice makes democracy necessary.
While commentators remain deeply divided on Niebuhr’s legacy (for both theology and politics), it’s interesting to note that his work continues to come back into public view from time to time. He was also the subject of a recent documentary film, directed by Martin Doblmeier, whose film on Dietrich Bonhoeffer received much acclaim few years ago. The new film, An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story, includes comments from President Jimmy Carter, civil rights leader Andrew Young, writer David Brooks, theologian Stanley Hauerwas, Cornel West and many others.
As we engage students about their sense of calling, about the intersection of their “deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger,” the insights of Niebuhr can perhaps help us avoid being too sanguine.
Do you have students who agonize over how they can justify living-college-life-as-usual when so much is so wrong in the world? Likewise, do you find yourself conflicted about how to teach when your heart is troubled by hatred and violence directed at vulnerable groups, by the state of division in our country, and the degradation of our planet?
If so, the concert of song and spoken word by Parker J. Palmer and Carrie Newcomer at the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College would have inspired and strengthened you. If you weren’t there, here are some reflections from someone who was. Continue reading