NetVUE Members Exchange Ideas and Best Practices during Regional Gatherings

​CIC’s Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) hosted two regional gatherings this fall on topics related to calling and vocation. Both events provided opportunities for teams from participating institutions to hear from expert speakers and to exchange ideas and best practices for their own vocational reflection and discernment programs.

Presenter stands in front of a projector screen displaying Mobile Apps for Churches
Benedictine University (IL) hosted the NetVUE regional gathering, “Vocation and Gen Z: Meaning-Making with Digital Natives, October 13–14.

NetVUE collaborated with Benedictine University (IL) to host an event, “Vocation and Gen Z: Meaning-Making with Digital Natives,” in October. The gathering drew teams of faculty and staff members from eight institutions in the upper Midwest. They were motivated by their own experiences of the ways that vocational reflection has been altered and challenged by recent developments in technology, social media, and the increasingly “wired” quality of the undergraduate experience. Most college students are now “digital natives” who cannot remember the era before smartphones; their personal development and formation has been highly influenced by the internet and by the increasingly virtual nature of their relationships and conversations.

The conference’s plenary speakers were Kerry Cronin, associate director of the Lonergan Institute and faculty fellow in the Center for Student Formation at Boston College, and Heidi Campbell, associate professor of communications at Texas A&M University. Making comparisons with past generations, both presenters described the fundamentally different forms of communication, personal interaction, and knowledge acquisition among today’s undergraduate students. Their talks generated lively discussion about how programs for vocational reflection and discernment can address the collegiate experience of digital natives. Participants were able to compare the student experience at their various institutions, to hear how their colleagues at other institutions are responding, and to consider possible adjustments of their own programs based on evolving realities. Evaluations expressed appreciation for the concrete and practical nature of much of the discussion, which allowed participants to bring specific recommendations back to their own campuses.

Three presenters speak while seated at the head table
NetVUE’s “New Scholarly Resources on Vocation” gathering, held November 17 in Boston, Massachusetts, focused on three NetVUE books.

On November 17, NetVUE hosted a seminar in Boston that focused on the books being produced through its Scholarly Resources Project. This gathering represented a new venture in that it was held as a pre-meeting event at the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and Society of Biblical Literature (SBL). Teams of participants from five area NetVUE institutions registered; the event also attracted a number of “drop-in” attendees who were preparing to attend the AAR/SBL meeting.

The NetVUE gathering examined the three Oxford University Press books generated by NetVUE. The first session focused on the newest volume, forthcoming in late 2018, which explores the role of vocational reflection and discernment in a religiously diverse context. Tentatively titled Hearing Vocation Differently: Meaning, Purpose, and Identity in the Multi-Faith Academy, this book includes contributions from scholars who embrace a wide range of religious faiths and philosophical perspectives. The session’s panelists were chapter authors Rachel Mikva, Rabbi Herman E. Schaalman Chair and associate professor of Jewish Studies of the Chicago Theological Seminary; and Katherine (Trina) Jones, associate professor of religion and associate provost for curriculum and co-curriculum at Wofford College (SC). Respondent John Barton, professor of religion and director of the Center for Faith and Learning at Pepperdine University (CA), raised several important questions about the challenges of teaching and mentoring students in a multi-faith environment.

The second session focused on the 2017 book Vocation across the Academy: A New Vocabulary for Higher Education. The panelists were contributors Jason Mahn, associate professor of religion at Augustana College (IL), and Christine Fletcher, associate professor of theology at Benedictine University (IL). The respondent, Esteban Loustaunau, associate professor of Spanish and director of the Sophomore Initiative at Assumption College (MA), described not only his own appreciation for the content of the book, but also that of colleagues at his own institution, where the book is being widely used in various faculty development initiatives.

The final session explored the first book in the series, At This Time and In This Place: Vocation and Higher Education, which was published in fall 2015. Presenters included chapter authors Charles Pinches, professor of theology and religious studies at University of Scranton (PA); and Darby Ray, Donald W. and Ann M. Harward Professor of Civic Engagement and director of the Harward Center for Community Partnerships at Bates College. Respondent Mark Allman, associate dean and professor of religious and theological studies at Merrimack College (MA), spoke about the significant challenges of, and strategies for, introducing the language of vocation and calling in more secular spaces—including institutions where the religious heritage is contested by some of its constituencies.

The sessions allowed considerable time for discussion, to which the participants contributed vigorously. At the concluding reception for the event, participants expressed appreciation for both the form and substance of the conversation. Several also lauded the decision to hold such an event prior to the AAR/SBL meeting, since many attendees also work with vocational reflection programs.

For more information about these and upcoming NetVUE gatherings, see below or visit the NetVUE program site.

NetVUE Will Offer Four Additional Regional Gatherings in 2018

  • “Vocation across the Academy: Storytelling, Mapmaking, and a Sense of Direction” will be held at Berry College (GA) February 23–24;
  • “Vocation across the Academy: Calling, Conflict, and the Necessity of Action” will take place at California Lutheran University March 9–10;
  • “Mentoring Undergraduate Students of Color: The Shape of Deep Purpose” will be hosted by Elizabethtown College (PA) in Washington, DC, March 23–24; and
  • “The Changing Nature of Work” will be held at Augustana College (IL) June 12–13.