Identifying Meaning and Purpose: UF Receives Grant to Fine-Tune Vocational Approach
The University of Findlay, in keeping with its mission to provide students with the foundation to pursue meaningful lives that positively impact others, has received a $32,000 grant to enhance vocational learning.
The funding is provided by the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVue), which is administered by the Council of Independent Colleges with generous support from the Lilly Endowment Inc. and members’ dues. NetVue grants help college students deepen their understanding of the intellectual and theological dimensions of vocational exploration.
Dale Brougher, Ph.D., professor of religion, explains that the intent of vocational preparedness is to reach beyond monetary and other material goals. “When a person seeks to base their academic pursuit on vocation, it means that they have considered more than what they like to do, what comes easy and what pays the most. It is making career decisions around what the individual discerns his/her ultimate meaning and reason for being on this earth,” said Dale Brougher, Ph.D., professor of religion. “To live out a sense of calling or vocation provides the motivation for being engaged in life and make a difference beyond self.”
The grant will pay for additional instruction in pedagogical approaches across a wider array of academic disciplines and student services. UF was founded by the Churches of God, General Conference, but it takes a non-sectarian approach to curriculum and practices, and welcomes students of all faiths. Rather than being singularly focused from a Christian perspective, this effort will foster spiritual inclusivity by emphasizing how students can continuously refine their professional and personal goals to achieve purposeful and fulfilling lives.
The Religious Studies and Philosophy Department will be spearheading this project, titled “Meaningful Lives and Productive Careers: Thinking Theologically about Life and Work.” Traditionally, the department’s introductory courses have included vocational instruction that asks students to answer these “Five Big Questions:”
- What is most important to me?
- What is truly worth caring about?
- Who am I?
- How can I live a life of meaning, dignity and joy?
- Are there causes/purposes larger than me and how does that drive my decision making along my faith journey?
The philosophical template that these questions present will be used to further the grant-funded efforts. This project also aligns with the University’s redesigned general education course component, part of which will require students to apply principles of value and civic duty in a wide range of settings, and engage in reflective study in a capstone course and/or experiential learning opportunity.
Project organizers hope to incorporate such vocational consideration and guidance cross-departmentally and in offices such as those that help with career planning. The intention also is to reinforce these concepts through a student’s entire academic career at UF so that they may better align their career pursuits with their ethos, and graduate with established methods for the types of life reevaluations and reaffirmations that we must all periodically conduct throughout the years.
“The last thing I think everyone wants is for a student to simply get a job just to earn money,” said grants manager Tricia Valasek. “We’re hoping that by learning to set goals and envision a career that is meaningful, students will find value in their future endeavors.”
The grant will pay for retreats and lunches that will span two years, beginning this fall. Professors, other instructors and staff in offices such as the Oiler Success Center will hear from speakers who specialize in vocation-focused learning, and will learn from each other during monthly lunches designed for information exchanges and other engagement opportunities.