Vocation Winter Camp

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“It’s always hard when your parents have one vocation for you and you find that you have another.”

I’m pretty sure that the shuttle van driver who took me back to the Grand Rapids airport last summer had no idea how perfectly his comment fit with everything I had been reading, writing, and talking about that week.

I called it “vocation summer camp” in this post last year, the week spent with a team of colleagues from colleges and universities around the country to begin our collaboration on new resources for those of us who work in higher education to accompany students as they discern their vocations, their paths to fulfilling and meaningful lives.  The Council of Independent Colleges has invited a growing network of institutions to this conversation through the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education, and I’ve been a part of it since its inception in 2009.

The van driver in Michigan was a kind, chatty, retired fellow who found a way to tell me his life story in under an hour.  His parents and grandparents had been farmers and he had been expected to continue that tradition, when other education and employment options emerged for him and he found a path that took him into uncharted professional territory.  He was grateful for it, but all these decades later, remembered that it wasn’t easy.  It’s a familiar narrative to many of us who work with undergraduate students, especially those who are, like many of my students, the first in their family to go to college.  It’s work that is important, challenging, and ultimately transforming.

This weekend, I’m heading to what I probably should call “vocation winter camp” to complement last year’s post.  Most of our group lives and works in places subjected to the polar vortex and other winter indignities these past months, and so we will gather for a few days of work at Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center.  The intense work will perhaps be manageable in a place actually in Carefree, Arizona (carefree … come on!) whose mission is itself focused on guests renewing their own callings in the world.

Check out their video, and consider your own retreat somewhere to reflect on your callings and the paths that led you to your work in the world:

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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.


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