NetVUE Benefits from $9.9 Million Lilly Endowment Grant to CIC; Network Awards Grants and Releases New Book

Lilly Endowment Support

Lilly Endowment Inc. recently awarded CIC $9,912,800 predominantly for support of the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE). This grant, the largest in CIC’s history, will support a number of ongoing and new NetVUE initiatives through 2023, as well as several related CIC activities. NetVUE now includes 246 member colleges and universities and five related organizations.

The bulk of the award—more than $7 million—will be disbursed to NetVUE member colleges and universities through various grant initiatives. Three current programs will extend for several more years, providing valuable support for professional development and program initiatives for vocational exploration and discernment at NetVUE member campuses. NetVUE also will launch two new grant initiatives: one that encourages institutions to reframe their “institutional saga” in light of new challenges and opportunities, and another that promotes guided internship opportunities through campus partnerships with businesses, nonprofits, and community organizations. In addition, the Lilly Endowment award will support the development of two new books by the NetVUE Scholarly Resources Project (adding to the three volumes already published by Oxford University Press), as well as an in-depth empirical study of the effects of vocational exploration programs on NetVUE member campuses.

“CIC is grateful to Lilly Endowment Inc. for this significant recognition of the accomplishments of NetVUE member colleges and universities,” said CIC President Richard Ekman. “CIC also thanks Lilly Endowment for its confidence in the value of pedagogical and co-curricular exploration of questions about meaning and purpose related to choices of academic majors and professional direction.”

Christopher Coble, vice president for religion at Lilly Endowment, remarked, “NetVUE member colleges and universities are responding to a hunger among college students to explore deep questions of meaning and purpose and to discover how they can draw on their faith as they seek to use their knowledge and talents to contribute to the well-being of the world. Lilly Endowment is pleased to support CIC and this exceptional network of schools.”

David Cunningham, professor of religion at Hope College (MI) and director of NetVUE, observed that “the network’s member campuses already bring extraordinary energy to the work of helping students discern their many callings in life, and to sharing knowledge and best practices with other institutions. This new award from Lilly Endowment Inc. will provide additional resources for them to carry out this work and to collaborate in new and exciting ways.”

The grant also funds other CIC programs: three years of faculty seminars on Teaching Interfaith Understanding; semi-annual meetings of the Executives in Church Related Higher Education; and modest capacity-building grants to denominational organizations to strengthen their ties with NetVUE. Prior to this latest award, Lilly Endowment had provided more than $17 million in grants to CIC for NetVUE since its founding in 2009.

NetVUE Program Development Grants

In fall 2018, CIC awarded NetVUE Program Development Grants of up to $50,000 each to 25 NetVUE member institutions to develop a wide variety of new initiatives (see list below). For example, Muskingum University (OH) will implement a program of holistic advising, with tailored advising goals that encourage students to reflect on questions of meaning and purpose. The College of St. Scholastica (MN) will develop a “Values in Action” project, designed to connect career development and service to the community. And Southwestern University (TX) will strengthen and expand its alumni network mentoring program to cover all four years of the student experience, with a special focus on recruiting underrepresented students and alumni. Brief descriptions of each of award are available on the NetVUE website.

Many recipients of previous grants will present their experiences and findings at the 2019 NetVUE Conference, which will be held in Louisville, Kentucky, March 21–23. Representatives from more than 70 institutions will offer presentations on a wide range of topics, including expanding career development services to include vocational reflection, giving vocation a more salient role in advising and mentoring programs, and integrating vocational exploration into the classroom.

Questions about NetVUE may be directed to David Cunningham, director of NetVUE, at or (616) 395-6750.

NetVUE Program Development Grant Recipients

​Augsburg University (MN)
Augustana College (IL)
Bay Path University (MA)
Bethany College (KS)
Bethel University (MN)
Bluefield College (VA)
Concordia University Wisconsin
Concordia University, St. Paul (MN)
Eckerd College (FL)
Elmhurst College (IL)
Furman University (SC)
Gordon College (MA)
Lee University (TN)
​Martin Methodist College (TN)
Maryville College (TN)
Muskingum University (OH)
Ottawa University (KS)
Samford University (AL)
Southwestern University (TX)
Susquehanna University (PA)
The College of St. Scholastica (MN)
University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (TX)
University of Mount Union (OH)
University of Saint Francis (IN)
Ursinus College (PA)

Book on Hearing Vocation Differently

book coverThe third book from the NetVUE Scholarly Resources Project was published by Oxford University Press (OUP) in December 2018. Hearing Vocation Differently: Meaning, Purpose, and Identity in the Multi-Faith Academy ably demonstrates that the language of vocation and calling is useful not only in Christian contexts, but in multi-faith and secular settings as well. The book’s 13 contributors write from a variety of faith traditions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism, as well as the perspectives of atheism and multiple religious belonging. Collectively, these essays will help institutions re-imagine their vocational programming in ways that are attentive to the increasingly multi-faith character of undergraduate life.

The new book is available to CIC and NetVUE member institutions on the OUP website at a significant discount using code AAFLYG6. It also will be the subject of a plenary panel at the 2019 NetVUE Conference, where three of its contributors will participate in a conversation moderated by Zeenat Rahman of the Aspen Institute. The NetVUE Scholarly Resources Project is generously supported by Lilly Endowment Inc.

Like the previous two volumes in the series, the new book is edited by David Cunningham, who now serves as director of NetVUE. Cunningham’s January 7 Inside Higher Ed essay, “What College Students Need Most,” provides a strong case for integrating the concepts of vocation and calling into independent higher education. The essay could serve as a tool to help those on campus better understand how vocation can bring the big questions of the liberal arts into conversation about matters of professional preparation and career development.