St. Olaf receives grant for expanding vocational support for students
St. Olaf College has received a $50,000 grant from the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) for a two-year project titled “Connecting with Purpose: Expanding Vocational Reflection and Deepening Community in the Undergraduate Experience.”
The grant will allow the college to create more ways for supporting student vocational reflection. It coincides with the founding of the Lutheran Center for Faith, Values, and Community in 2019 and the implementation of a new general education (GE) curriculum.
It’s so exciting that this grant from NetVUE is helping us bring together staff and faculty from across the college to reflect on emerging resources on meaning and purpose that speak to our increasingly diverse community of students, staff, and faculty.Director of the Lutheran Center Deanna Thompson ’89
“It’s so exciting that this grant from NetVUE is helping us bring together staff and faculty from across the college to reflect on emerging resources on meaning and purpose that speak to our increasingly diverse community of students, staff, and faculty,” says Director of the Lutheran Center Deanna Thompson ’89. “Focusing on equity and inclusion in programming around vocation will be a central focus, as will expanding conversations about faith commitments and vocation in a way that honors the multi-religious character and increasingly non-religious identities of those who make up the St. Olaf community.”
Although a three-day Vocation Summit scheduled for June 2020 to kick off the grant has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Olaf faculty and staff have created video resources on vocational discernment as the foundation of a curriculum for Communities of Practice. Comprising over 60 faculty and staff, these focus groups aim to support and expand efforts of vocational reflection throughout the college. The Communities of Practice include:
- Academic Civic Engagement and International and Off-Campus Study Programs
- Advising and Mentorship for First-Generation and Low-Income Students
- Classroom Instruction
- Cocurricular Programs
- First-Year Seminar Program
- Integrating Academic and Vocational Reflection on Internships
- Ministry/Faith-Based Pathways
- Center for Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) Program
The Communities of Practice will meet several times between June and December to work through the vocation curriculum with the intent of creating new opportunities for vocational reflection pertaining to their areas of focus. In the fall, St. Olaf will partner with the Minnesota/Iowa branch of Campus Compact, an organization that works with colleges and universities to foster civic engagement and community development, to host a faculty workshop for courses meeting the intended learning outcomes of the new Experiential Learning GE requirement.
In addition to supporting the Communities of Practice, the grant will help faculty create courses that align with the goal of vocational discernment. Grants of $500 will be available for faculty members designing courses for the Experiential Learning GE, while $350 grants will be available for any faculty and staff projects that align with the goals of the NetVUE initiative.
The renewed focus on vocation will also extend beyond academic and career-based areas.
Vocation is about who we are in all aspects of life; therefore we can’t neglect the ways in which mental health challenges, trauma, grief, and other realities factor into reflection on meaning, purpose, and calling.Director of the Lutheran Center Deanna Thompson ’89
“There’s growing interest in having conversations about vocation that explicitly acknowledge and make space for students’ (and all of our) ‘deep sadnesses’ as well as our ‘deep gladness,'” Thompson says. “Vocation is about who we are in all aspects of life; therefore we can’t neglect the ways in which mental health challenges, trauma, grief, and other realities factor into reflection on meaning, purpose, and calling. In our gatherings this summer, we’ll consider how more expansive understandings of vocation might allow students more space to bring their whole selves to these conversations.”