The hosts of NetVUE’s podcast Callings recently sat down for a conversation with Kristin Kobes Du Mez, professor of history and gender studies at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Since the publication of her New York Times bestselling book, Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation (2020), she has been in the middle of intense public debates about faith, nationalism, and gender in American Evangelicalism. In this episode, Kristin shares some of the story behind that story, reflecting on the role that historical research plays in public life.Continue reading
Vocation in Action: Community Engagement with Diverse Populations
As our society continues to become more diverse and connected to the global community, students need to consider their vocations in a sociocultural context. In addition to helping students discern their many callings in life, this work can make an important contribution to developing campuses and communities that are more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and just. As part of its 2023 UnConference, NetVUE hosted a webinar on March 23 with three teams who discussed their experiences and strategies for actively integrating vocation into diverse populations so that both our students and our communities benefit.
From left to right: John DeCostanza, Sheila Bauer-Gatsos, Bradley Pardue, and Trishia Kholodenko.Continue reading
Lucky Hank, Gifted Students, and Vocation in a Meritocratic Culture
A week ago, AMC released Lucky Hank, a new television series based on Richard Russo’s hilarious novel Straight Man. The novel and series tell the story of Hank Devereaux, Jr., an underachieving English professor at an underfunded Railton College.
The opening scene has Lucky Hank responding after a creative writing student who thinks he has great literary promise has read a particularly bad story aloud during a writing workshop. Devereaux criticizes the story’s “wandering point of view” and “distancing of the reader”—not to mention the theme of necrophilia. The sophomoric student contends that he may in fact be the next Chaucer, whereas the professor’s only published novel isn’t even available in the campus bookstore. Devereaux retorts by mounting his harshest critique of them all:
You’re here! You’re here! The fact that you’re here is evidence that you didn’t try hard in high school or show much promise. And even if your presence at this middling college in this sad forgotten town was some bizarre anomaly and you do have the promise of genius—which I’ll bet a kidney you don’t—it will never surface. I’m not a good enough writer or writing teacher to bring it out of you. And how do I know that? How? Because I, too, am here! At Railton College! Mediocracy’s capital!
I Hear People Caring Loudly
In the current world of streaming television and vast amounts of available media content, finding an inspiring show with entertainment value and meaning for the leadership work we do with students, especially around vocation and calling, can be highly satisfying.
I was recently happy to find meaning, vocation, and care for others in an unexpected place on the streaming menu. All Creatures Great and Small is a PBS show in its third season. Based on books by novelist and veterinarian James Herriot, this series examines small-town life in Yorkshire, England, before World War II. As its main characters—Siegfried, James, and Tristan—take care of both farm animals and pets in their small veterinary practice, the show illustrates the relationships that form as community members depend on and care for one another in daily life.Continue reading
Deanna Thompson on This Vocation Now
The most recent episode of NetVUE’s podcast series Callings features a conversation with scholar, writer, and speaker Deanna Thompson. She serves as the Martin E. Marty Regents Chair of Religion and the Academy at St. Olaf College, where she also directs the Lutheran Center for Faith, Values, and Community. In this conversation with hosts Erin VanLaningham and John Barton, she shares her passion to talk about “the vocations we don’t choose”—the place, she says, “where a lot of us live.”Continue reading
From Career Paths to Communications Circuits: Vocation and Book History
As an English teacher, I’m always attuned to language and its implications. The language of vocation tends to be a language of opportunity: to grow and flourish, to move forward, to make life-defining choices. Correspondingly, the imagery is of doors opening, of young people silhouetted against a sun-drenched landscape, their backs to us as they move forward into the radiant future. Both this language and imagery signal individualism, which is also present in my college’s exhortation to students to pursue their own “unique career path.” All this is certainly sensible: we want students to have a path to follow when they leave us, and to thrive and find fulfilment in the wider world. But in my interactions with students about the broad issue of vocational discernment, I find myself emphasizing the language not of opportunity but of constraint. Counterintuitive as it may seem, being explicit about how life choices are constrained by responsibilities to others and by factors out of our control can offer students a more robust framework for thinking about how to move forward.
Since the Lutheran mission of my college is vestigial, and since my students rarely have much formation in the concept of vocation, I don’t usually raise questions about discernment directly in the classroom. I do, however, teach a course on book history—the material lives of texts—that I have found a useful place to engage students in reflection about how they want their education and their lives to matter.Continue reading
Reengaging Students Through Vocational Discernment and Significant Learning
A series of posts about a collaborative project at the University of Dayton to develop courses, programs, and opportunities for undergraduate vocational discernment in the health professions, including a first-year course, “Discover Health and Medicine.”
At some point in the past couple of years, I think all of us in higher education have asked ourselves why our students seem to be so disengaged. More students seem to lack the ability to pay attention for an entire class period. They miss deadlines or do not seem to care about their academic success or progress. Worse yet, some students just disappear altogether with no explanation and refuse to respond when we reach out to offer assistance.Continue reading
Second Chances and Good Time(s): Transformations and Transactions in Prison
Three weeks ago, I submitted final grades for the January (J-Term) course that I taught at East Moline Correctional Center (EMCC) through the Augustana Prison Education Program (APEP). I created the course, “Redemption, Reconciliation, and Restorative Justice,” on the “inside-out” model of prison education. The plan was to shuttle traditional students each day to the local prison to learn beside their incarcerated classmates. Sadly, EMCC nixed that plan earlier in the fall, citing a shortage of security personnel. When Sharon Varallo, the executive director of APEP, asked me to choose whether to teach the course to free students or incarcerated students, I quickly chose the latter. I knew from some prior experiences that deep transformation of individuals and communities is more likely—or at least easier to notice—when teaching behind bars.Continue reading
Embracing Uncertainty: Parallels Between the Scientific Method and Vocational Discernment
(Austin) I recently hosted a career panel for our science majors at my college. During this panel, students had the opportunity to hear from fantastic individuals who were doing exciting and fulfilling work in careers like healthcare diagnostics, pharmaceutical management, and biotech research and development. The students heard compelling stories about the winding and fortuitous journeys that led the panelists to their current vocations. Since the panelists were alumni of the college and had been in the same position as my students a decade ago, I was excited about how current students might gain confidence in pursuit of their own unique and creative paths.
After the panel, I held a feedback session for my students. I anticipated their excitement about potential careers and where they might be called. However, they seemed more nervously overwhelmed than awestruck. The sentiment in the room was summarized by a student who said,Continue reading
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.