CIC Announces $5.5 Million Grant from Lilly Endowment to Support Vocational Exploration in Independent Colleges

1/22/2014 — Washington, DC

​​The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) today announced that Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded CIC a grant of $5,509,978 to support the intellectual and theological exploration of vocation at independent colleges and universities. The grant will support further extension of the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) initiative as well as additional offerings of CIC’s Presidential Vocation and Institutional Mission program.​

Established in 2009, NetVUE now includes 179 member colleges and universities. Among them are institutions with both formal and historic ties to a wide variety of Protestant, Catholic, and other religious bodies, as well as institutions with wholly secular traditions. Lilly Endowment’s grant includes $4.7 million for NetVUE and will provide a fourth round of Program Development Grants with awards of up to $50,000 available to many NetVUE member institutions. It also establishes a new program of Professional Development Awards open to all NetVUE member institutions, offering up to $10,000 per college or university to support the enrichment of vocational understanding and practices among institutional leaders.
In announcing the grant, CIC President Richard Ekman said, “We are delighted by the Lilly Endowment’s extraordinary continuing support of these two CIC programs. This grant will help us advance the continuing emphasis on vocation as a powerful pedagogy as colleges help undergraduates explore questions of meaning and purpose in relation to choices of academic majors and professional aspirations. Second, the grant will enable individuals who are considering advancement to a college presidency to explore the vocational dimensions that are central to the mission of most CIC colleges and universities. And third, this grant will sustain NetVUE until 2020 by cushioning a more gradual path to financial independence. NetVUE is an initiative that is being built to last.”
Of the total grant, $800,000 will support three additional annual cycles of the Presidential Vocation and Institutional Mission program. Building on previous success, this program will be offered to senior campus leaders who are considering future service as a college or university president. The goal is to strengthen the pool of presidential candidates who understand their work as a calling and are more fully prepared to invest in the distinctive missions of independent colleges and universities.
CIC’s commitment to support “the intellectual and theological exploration of vocation” began in 2005 with the establishment of the Presidential Vocation and Institutional Mission program, followed by the exploratory Vocation in Undergraduate Education Conference in March 2009. Subsequently a $2.4 million grant from Lilly Endowment was received to develop NetVUE over six years and renew the Vocation and Mission program. Initially, NetVUE programs and services included national and regional conferences for faculty members and other campus leaders, consultations, a campus visit program, and use of an online resource library. In October 2011, the Endowment provided a second grant of $6.9 million to expand NetVUE by providing funds for program development grants to NetVUE institutions, the development of new scholarly resources about vocation, and an initiative to strengthen the campus chaplaincy. The third grant, announced today, deepens NetVUE’s capacity to develop institutional leadership based on the idea of a called life.
NetVUE is directed by Shirley J. Roels, CIC senior advisor and professor of management at Calvin College (MI). More information about NetVUE programs, services, and membership is available at The Presidential Vocation and Institution Mission initiative is led by William V. Frame, CIC senior advisor and president emeritus of Augsburg College (MN). More information about this initiative is available at:

​The Council of Independent Colleges is an association of 645 nonprofit independent colleges and universities and more than 90 higher education organizations that has worked since 1956 to support college and university leadership, advance institutional excellence, and enhance public understanding of private higher education’s contributions to society. CIC is the major national organization that focuses on providing services to leaders of independent colleges and universities as well as conferences, seminars, and other programs that help institutions to improve educational quality, administrative and financial performance, and institutional visibility. CIC also provides support to state fundraising associations that organize programs and generate contributions for private colleges and universities. The Council is headquartered at One Dupont Circle in Washington, DC. For more information, visit