2019 NetVUE Conference Update: Speakers to Explore Vocation in Multi-Faith Contexts

Campus teams from the more than 200 colleges and universities that are members of CIC’s Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) will gather in Louisville, Kentucky, March 21–23 for the 2019 NetVUE Conference. Under the theme “Broadening the Scope of Vocational Exploration,” participants will consider how the language of calling and vocation can play a greater role in the increasingly diverse context of higher education. Through plenary sessions, topical workshops, and concurrent campus presentations, the conference will provide participants with a wide range of resources to expand the work of vocational exploration. The conference will be framed by keynote speaker Rebecca S. Chopp, chancellor of the University of Denver (CO), who will address “The Future as Vocation,” and closing plenary speaker, Robert M. Franklin, Jr., James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor of Moral Leadership at Emory University and president emeritus, Morehouse College (GA), who will explore “The Vocation of Moral Leadership.”

The 2019 NetVUE Conference will provide an opportunity to reflect on how vocation, a concept that began within the Christian tradition, is addressing the increasing religious diversity among students at independent colleges and universities. The conference coincides with the release of the third book from the NetVUE Scholarly Resources Project, which Oxford University Press will publish in December. Titled Hearing Vocation Differently: Meaning, Purpose, and Identity in the Multi-Faith Academy, the book was co-written by 13 scholars from a wide range of religious perspectives, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism. Some of the book’s contributors identify with more than one of these traditions, while others claim none of them. (Note: The book will be available on the Oxford University Press website; CIC and NetVUE members can use the promotion code AAFLYG6 to save 30 percent.)

A plenary panel at the 2019 NetVUE Conference will feature three of the book’s contributors. Rachel S. Mikva, who holds the Rabbi Schaalman Chair at Chicago Theological Seminary, is the author of the book’s lead chapter, “The Change a Difference Makes.” She points out that, because college students are typically exposed to people who are not like themselves, the undergraduate years provide an excellent opportunity to move from a mere “acceptance of otherness” to a positive encounter with difference. Katherine Janiec (Trina) Jones, whose scholarship and teaching focuses on Buddhism, Islam, and comparative religion at Wofford College (SC), explores the increasingly significant role of “multiple religious belonging” among college students, drawing together insights from Mary Pipher’s book Reviving Ophelia with the figure of “Sheila” from the important 1985 study Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life. Anantanand Rambachan, a scholar of Hinduism at St. Olaf College (MN), engages with a textual crux in the Bhagavadgita to explore the decisions that people sometimes make to renounce a particular vocation or to detach themselves from the fruits of their labors.

During their plenary session, the three contributors will explore how these broader concerns relate to undergraduate students. Their conversation will be moderated by Zeenat Rahman, who serves as project director of the Inclusive America Project at the Aspen Institute. This nonpartisan project seeks to increase respect for diverse religious identities in the public sphere, to foster positive interfaith interactions, and to form partnerships among people of different beliefs to advance the common good. Rahman previously served at the U.S. Department of State, working as special adviser on global youth issues to secretaries Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Kerry. A frequent speaker and commentator, Rahman has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, and many international news outlets and has spoken at the United Nations, the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, and the White House.

In addition to this plenary panel, concurrent sessions at the conference will address several closely related themes. Faculty members from a variety of church-related liberal arts institutions—Bethel University (MN), Dominican University (IL), and Pepperdine University (CA)—will consider the role of multi-faith approaches to vocation at religiously distinctive colleges and universities. Another aspect of campus diversity will be highlighted in the session “Mentoring Students of Color for Deep Purpose,” which will feature educators from Allegheny College (PA), Augustana College (IL), and DePaul University (IL). Also, a panel of faculty members from a variety of institutions will discuss how they have implemented vocational discernment elements in their own increasingly diverse classrooms.

For more information on the 2019 NetVUE Conference, including about the program, registration, or reservations at the Galt House Hotel, visit the conference website. Thanks to the generosity of Lilly Endowment Inc. and modest member dues, all conference costs other than travel will be waived for the first three team members from each NetVUE institution. Members are encouraged to register before the February 1, 2019, deadline as space is limited. Information on becoming a NetVUE member is available online.