By shifting from the individual to the whole, from the relevant to the irrelevant, from the “mine” to the “not mine”—by replacing the question “Who are you?” with the questions “Who are we?” and “Who can we be?”—we experienced a sense of community well beyond the walls of our classroom that relieved the isolation and the pressure for a few moments, which was profound.
I spent much of the past month reading essays by Marilynne Robinson with a small group of first-year undergraduate students. By way of the essays in When I Was a Child I Read Books, we talked about Moses, John Calvin, Edgar Allan Poe, and Emily Dickinson; we explored questions of character, virtue, beauty, community, and the soul; and we worked hard—very, very hard at times—just to understand Robinson’s prose let alone to care about or enjoy her bold attachment for such long-dead and seemingly irrelevant things.
And yet, as Robinson says of her own early reading life, which was filled with books on Carthage, Constantinople, and the Cromwell revolution, “relevance was precisely not an issue” (85). Robinson describes reading as a way to roam meditatively and unassumingly through far-away stories, histories, experiences, and ideas, regardless of whether or not they were, in Robinson’s terms, “mine” or “not mine.” In fact, reading and meditating on the irrelevant became a way for Robinson to decenter herself, to dissolve herself, and to roam freely and joyfully away from herself and toward what might be called the “cosmic.”
As students gain clarity about their vocational choice(s), we must create a longitudinal path that provides opportunities for students to revisit vocational discernment throughout their college experience.
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.”
I am always amused when I’m asked if I work in the field in which I earned my undergraduate degree. The answer is no, and in fact, I go out of my way to explain to students my meandering path to my current vocation. When I reflect upon my experiences, I accept that had I made different choices as an undergraduate, my path may have been straighter and more efficient, but I would not be the same person that I am today.
In my initial blog post in January, I shared my colleagues’ and my plan to develop a Discover Health & Medicine track for students who express interest in a career in the health professions but had not been initially accepted into a traditional pre-health major. Our two-semester, first-year class will incorporate an intentionally extended vocational exploration and discernment process. For those students who are interested in exploring a vocation in the health professions, this class will teach the skills of discernment and provide tools and resources to use in setting goals.
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.
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.
As educators today, and particularly in the humanities, we face several challenges: how do we lead students into worthwhile conversations and real learning on controversial issues? How can we help students overcome their natural obstacles to understanding others, especially understanding views different from their own?
How can people with different views on issues that matter have meaningful conversations?
As educators today, and particularly in the humanities, we face several challenges: how do we lead students into worthwhile conversations and real learning on controversial issues? How can we help students overcome their natural obstacles to understanding others, especially understanding views different from their own? How do we help them “loosen up so they can learn,” as my colleague Paul puts it—to open up intellectually and emotionally so that they can engage with the world?
The more students I mentor in shaping investigative projects, the more I find that “doing research” directly engages students in understanding the contours of their own vocations—that place where their deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger, as Frederick Buechner has said.
What is the purpose of undergraduate research in the humanities? We may agree that college and university students aspiring to graduate studies benefit from the experience of researching and that a well-crafted research paper contributes to their graduate school applications. We may also concede that developing a research question and carrying out an investigation helps humanities students who are not bound for graduate school to develop important analytical, problem-solving, writing, and time-management skills.
But is that it? Humanities research really only benefits a few declared majors already heading to grad school and assists others with soft skills? If this were the case, then there would be little point for students to engage in research outside of their disciplinary majors. Yet general education courses still require the use of primary sources, reviews of scholarly literature, argument analysis, and final projects—all forms of investigative research. The more students I mentor in shaping investigative projects, the more I find that “doing research” directly engages students in understanding the contours of their own vocations—that place where their deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger, as Frederick Buechner has said.
I have found the clearest examples of students engaging their vocations through investigative research in
Since we cannot escape our interdependence and interconnectedness, we are forced to confront our life together as kin (or “oddkin,” as Harraway says). To re-configure our relations, we must unmake, make, and remake; we must indulge in the work of imaginating, speculating, and fabulating a future for all creatures and life forms. This is not fantasy, but justice.
A series of posts about a collaborative project at Wingate University, resulting in a first-year course called Food and Faith: Health and Happiness Around the Many Tables of Our Lives.
This third blog in our series will explore how our pedagogy reflects our belief in Earth’s entangled banks as a source of wisdom. We model our course design and teaching on our belief that we are all interdependent beings living in webs of relations and education for vocation is a co-creative process. We thrive when we live and learn by re-membering these elements of our identities as individuals and societies. This post will focus on our nature as co-creative creatures and how to teach with co-creativity as a guiding principle.
When I learned that Thich Nhat Handh died it was like a meditation bell ringing that returned my attention to the present moment. Like so many others, I have followed Thich Nhat Hanh from a distance, reading his books, listening to his dharma talks… This year, I have felt him closer to me in the classroom than ever.
When I learned that Thich Nhat Hanh died it was like a meditation bell ringing that returned my attention to the present moment. My next breath was deeper and calmer. In his death as in his life, he brought me peace. Like so many others, I have followed Thich Nhat Hanh from a distance, reading his books, listening to his dharma talks. I have taught his book Being Peace through the years, both in intro religion courses and in peace and justice courses. This year, I have felt him closer to me in the classroom than ever.
Attentiveness is essential to beginning our vocational journeys. And few things are under greater assault in our culture.
If I want to rile students up and get debate going, I mention Vermont State Senator John Rodger’s recent proposed bill to ban smartphones for anyone under 21, and his remark that smartphones are “just as dangerous as guns.” Student response to the debate over technology is a mixture of spirited defense and despairing acknowledgement of its harms. More and more, this debate has taken a vocational inflection for me. I think that the first-year writing course is an excellent place to begin to make students aware of, concerned by, and proactive about that which imperils their ability to thoughtfully and responsibly engage in their many callings, and especially their calling to conversations.
In Living Vocationally: The Journey of the Called Life, Paul J. Wadell and Charlie Pinches suggest that the first virtue required to begin our vocational journeys is attentiveness. Paying attention, so the argument runs, matters because “at the basis of every calling, whether a friendship, a career, or being patient with a stranger, is a summons to responsibility; however, we cannot be responsible without an accurate perception of reality, and we cannot accurately perceive reality without growing in attentiveness” (159). For Wadell and Pinches, attention is a “situating virtue” (along with humility and gratitude) because “instead of the thoughtlessness or indifference by which we turn in on ourselves and become carelessly disengaged with life, the virtue of attention forms us into persons who are fully present to life” (157). I agree that attentiveness is essential to beginning our vocational journeys. And few things are under greater assault in our culture than attentiveness.