Vocational Discernment as a Wellness Tool

Campus life is gradually beginning to return to a new normal after two years of pandemic learning. Students are back in classrooms, and co-curricular activities are in full swing. However, there is still much healing and readjustment to do since the psychological impact of the COVID19 pandemic will be with us for years to come.

To address this new normal, NetVUE’s Fall 2022 Webinar focused on “Vocational Discernment as a Wellness Tool.” Exploring meaning and purpose can be a creative and effective way to integrate well-being practices on campus. A recent study, for example, indicates that exploring meaning and purpose for one’s life may lead to higher levels of life satisfaction, positive coping skills, and greater psychological health. The webinar on October 26 featured Elizabeth Kubek (below left) and Debra Minsky-Kelly (below right) and addressed the topic of integrating vocation as a wellness strategy in our work with students.

Elizabeth Kubek serves as Director of Summer Term and Faculty Director of Student Academic Success in the Provost’s Office and as Professor in English at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota. Elizabeth shared the mission of her institution’s Vocation Advisory Council, which coordinates activities for vocation-based education for students, faculty, and staff. She also outlined the college’s general education programming, which includes required well-being courses that introduce at least one dimension of well-being (Emotional, Relational, Physical, Financial, Intellectual, Environmental, Vocational, Career, Spiritual) and Challenge Seminar courses that involve senior students in exploring a particular challenge or a pressing ethical question.

Debra Minsky-Kelly is Director of Field Education and Clinical Assistant Professor of Social Work at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Debra discussed how intellectual reflection exercises, such as vocational exploration, relate to brain center activation and higher order cognitive skills. She provided information on how stress affects our bodies. She discussed classroom techniques that integrate vocational exploration and wellness: mindfulness, role playing, small-group work, yoga, journaling, and more.

The final 30 minutes of the webinar were dedicated to questions from participants, including questions about specific approaches to integrating vocation and wellness techniques in the classroom and about institutional initiatives. Related NetVUE resources include episodes from Callings on Burnout and Belonging and Vocational Advice for Undergraduates and blog posts on Self Care and Vocation Through Students’ Eyes and Quiet Quitting.

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.

Science, Certainty, and the Active Learning Lab of COVID-19

In early December, NetVUE hosted a webinar on “The Scientific Vocation in a Time of Crisis.” Judy Ericksen, associate professor of occupational therapy at Elizabethtown College, offered these reflections about how COVID-19 has created an “active learning lab” for students.

I teach in a program that attracts students who have decided early on what they want to do with their lives: they want to help people. They are often drawn to the health professions by personal experiences with disease or disability, and understand becoming an occupational therapist as a calling, something they were drawn to at an early age.

As they move through our program, which is five years in length, they are required to reconcile their vision of occupational therapy with the reality of today’s healthcare environment and this is often not an easy task for them. My advisees who question this early calling seem to fall into two categories—those who discover that health care, e.g. medical care no longer fuels their passion—and those who discover that while their calling came from the heart, being an occupational therapist also requires good use of the head. We describe our profession as being an art and a science and often it is the science that is more challenging for them. 

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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.  

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Courageous Texts, Courageous Teaching

How can we listen, learn and respond to health crises, financial crises, and racial injustice? What resources and models are available to guide us through these as teaching moments? As faculty and staff begin to build programs and assignments that prompt courageous conversations, texts and pedagogical strategies that model courageous teaching and learning can help. On Tuesday, July 28, NetVUE hosted a webinar with three speakers who offered specific texts and assignments that prompt conversation and address the challenges of contemporary life.

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Fighting the Good Fight

Many students feel called to engage in ongoing struggles for social justice on our campuses, in their communities, and beyond. Recent events have led even more students to recognize that such activism may be part of their vocation. But even the most motivated and energetic student advocates experience frustration and exhaustion to an extent that threatens their well-being and sometimes even the continuation of their studies. How can we best support these students? How can those of us who are committed to helping our students discern and live out their vocations tend to their sometimes acute sense of being embattled? On Tuesday, July 14, NetVUE hosted a webinar with four speakers who addressed this intersection of social justice, activism, and vocation.

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Theological responses to the pandemic

On June 17, 2020, the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) hosted a webinar on “Theological Responses to the Pandemic.” The goal of this event was to offer a range of theologically-grounded responses to the current public health crisis and to the deep social inequalities that it has laid bare. Four NetVUE scholars took on the task of thinking theologically and responding responsibly to these uncertain and sometimes terrifying times.

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