Grant Supports Turning a Career Into a Vocation

The University will launch an effort to extend to all four years of study a successful First-Year Seminar program that encourages student reflection on vocation.

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College students across the country dream of “making a difference” in the world, but how does this lofty goal translate to their chosen professions as an occupational therapist, accountant or cybercrime investigator?

The University of Scranton received a $47,635 Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) program development grant to extend its efforts in helping students address that question. The grant will allow the University to extend to all four-years of study what is already a successful First-Year Seminar program that initiates and encourages student reflection on what it might mean to be called to be, in the Ignatian phrase, “men and women for and with others.”

“To have a 'vocation' is to have a ‘calling’ or summons that comes to us from beyond us, urging us to offer particular kinds of service to God and others.” - Charles Pinches, Ph.D., Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at Scranton

“To have a 'vocation' is to have a ‘calling’ or summons that comes to us from beyond us, urging us to offer particular kinds of service to God and others. Although often thought of only in a religious context, a vocation can extend to anyone in any field or career, and includes being called to the defining commitments of our lives, such as being a parent, friend or student.” said Charles Pinches, Ph.D., professor of theology and religious studies and director of the University’s First-Year Seminar. “The heart of the educational mission of the University is its commitment to form students to become ‘men and women for and with others.’ This mission brings to the surface the question of where our students are headed in their adult lives, and how a vision for this commitment can be encouraged within them.”

In 2013, the University implemented a three-credit First-Year Seminar taught by full-time faculty members and intended, in part, to introduce students to the Jesuit and Catholic mission of the University and grow student capabilities in critical and discerning thought.

With support from a 2013-15 NetVUE Program Development Grant and additional internal University funding, faculty who teach First-Year Seminar courses participated in workshops to encourage ways to consider mission and vocation-related matters with Scranton’s incoming students. The current grant, which builds on work completed during that earlier grant, aims to institute a practice for incoming students whereby they write a “letter my future self” about what they hope for their lives, where they might be headed, and how they might best identify and use their gifts and talents. Initially composed within one of the 55 or so sections of the First-Year Seminar courses taught during the fall semester, that letter can be revisited and revised over the course of the student’s time at the University, with the help of peers and faculty guides and in light of a growing sense of the student’s vocations. Funding will support faculty training and program development for this initiative beginning this summer and continuing through the 2022-23 academic year.

The University is among is among a group of NetVUE members institutions selected to receive a grant, the purpose of which is to deepen vocational exploration and discernment among undergraduate students. NetVUE Program Development Grants are made possible through financial support to the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) by Lilly Endowment Inc.

NetVUE is a nationwide network of colleges and universities formed to enrich the intellectual and theological exploration of vocation among undergraduate students. The initiative is administered by CIC with support from Lilly Endowment Inc. and members’ dues. The Lilly Endowment is a private philanthropic foundation, established by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons, Eli and J.K. Jr, of the firm Eli Lilly and Company.

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