Vocation Summer Camp

This week I’m spending time in Holland, Michigan, working as part of the Scholarly Resources Project.  It’s an initiative of the Council of Independent Colleges Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) focused on developing new resources for those of us working in higher education.

Here’s some description of the project:

“Despite the increasing interest in the intellectual and theological exploration of vocation, its further development on college and university campuses faces significant challenges. The current economic climate has led to a focus on shorter-term educational goals. Many institutions find themselves fighting to preserve emphasis on the importance of broader vision and deeper wisdom in undergraduate education. The liberal arts disciplines—traditionally a bulwark for conversations about questions of meaning and significance—are frequently on the defensive. Students increasingly encounter a wider array of religious traditions on campus and also find themselves with the uncertainties that characterize what we have learned to call “emerging adulthood.” These and related challenges have prompted many new questions about the concept of vocation and how it can best be explored by today’s undergraduate students.”

I’ve already written a bit of my own defense of college education today, here.  The seminar of which I am a part for this week is considering:

How can colleges and universities educate undergraduates about vocation?  In the face of an ever-changing context, institutions need resources for increasing student attentiveness to vocation, for describing the nature of vocational exploration in fresh and compelling ways, and for connecting students with vocation-based practices across institutions with diverse missions and religious heritages. ”

And so, we have a challenge:

“Despite the venerable history of the idea of vocation, it faces significant challenges: uncertainty about its meaning and significance; the absence of a clearly developed curriculum and associated pedagogies; and a lack of extensive literature to provide support and resources to the ongoing development of vocation as a focus of academic inquiry and practice.”

In preparation for a week’s worth of meetings and conversations, we’ve been reading much of the literature that constitutes that history, and are looking collectively to contribute to a new generation of work on vocation relevant to higher education in the 21st century.

I’ll be sure to let you know what we come up with!


About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and also teaches Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.