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New book on vocation in the liberal arts features St. Olaf authors

StOlaf470x325What is the role of vocation in the liberal arts? What legacy did Martin Luther leave to the educators who followed him? How does the Lutheran tradition inform higher education?

These are the questions that St. Olaf College President David R. Anderson ’74, Professor of Religion L. DeAne Lagerquist, and Martin E. Marty Professor of Religion and the Academy Darrell Jodock ’62 address in a new open-source ebook to which they have each contributed a chapter.

The book, a compilation of essays, speeches, and articles by college leaders from around the country, is titled Project DAVID: Vocation and Reinvention in Liberal Arts CollegesIt aims to showcase the “strategic reinvention” under way in liberal arts colleges affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and how they are positioning themselves for future success.

In his chapter, Anderson asks what it would look like if liberal arts institutions took more meaningful steps to ensure that their students are being adequately prepared to flourish in the modern workplace.

“We would begin by teaching vocation,” he writes. “A sense of vocation gives us purpose and direction and meaning. It is a most helpful concept for an undergraduate to think about because it connects ‘Here’s what I’m good at and what I like to do’ with ‘Here is a need in the world that I am suited to meet.’”

Jodock’s chapter examines how the Lutheran tradition informs the way liberal arts colleges approach teaching and vocation.

“The value of the religious tradition is that it puts deeper questions on the agenda,” he writes. “It keeps the purpose of education alive. It keeps mystery alive — the sense of mystery that undergirds all profound academic endeavors. It gives to the college or university a basis upon which to assess the culture of which it too is a part — supporting some parts and critiquing others. Rather than a religious enclave or a microcosm, a college or university following [this] path is well dug deep to serve the whole community.”

In her chapter, Lagerquist points out several “intriguing resonances between pressing questions of our own time and the debate Martin Luther was a part of nearly five centuries ago.”

She writes, “He and we ask big questions like these: What makes a person valuable? Where do I belong? What can I accomplish? What makes life worth living? How does one come by these goods?”