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“Vocational Exploration in Multi-Faith Contexts”


Today’s undergraduate students live in a diverse and confusing world. These challenges are made more difficult by only tentative attachments to traditional faith communities and instant access to real-time information throughout the world. Many undergraduates find themselves understandably overwhelmed by the world in which they already live––not to mention the world that might lie ahead. They experience skepticism about the metanarratives and worldviews that were sometimes posited as giving their lives a degree of order and meaning. On a number of college and university campuses, efforts are being made to address these challenges with programs focused on the idea of vocation.

Scholars in this seminar thought deeply about how vocational discernment and vocation-related practices can be advanced in a multi-faith world. This seminar considered theological frameworks in diverse religious traditions in relation to vocation.  It considered how to educate undergraduates from diverse backgrounds to move beyond mere tolerance of diversity to develop deeper interconnections with one another. Many faith traditions have underlying assumptions about the nature of humanity and about human identity; sacred texts often reflect on the nature of character, work, and rest, including questions about the nature and purpose of service to others. The aim of this seminar was to produce resources from multiple traditions of belief and practice that enrich the theological understanding of calling with and among undergraduate students while enhancing their fluency about multiple faith traditions of meaning and purpose.

The NetVUE Scholarly Resources Seminar on multi-faith contexts—the final in a series of three—explored what it means to use the language of vocation and vocational discernment in a pluralistic context. These questions are no longer merely ecumenical among various Christian circles, but now concern deeply-felt distinctions across more varied traditions. Whatever their own faith commitments, faculty and students are more regularly encountering people whose faith and religious practices differ—sometimes radically—from their own not only in higher education, but in cities, community organizations, and workplaces. What ideas about being, character and virtue, rhythms of life and frameworks for action are shared across multiple traditions of belief? How do we welcome and engage purposefully with students, faculty, and staff from many belief traditions as they consider their sense of calling? How might we find vocational language to consider what is held in common amid differences and teach student effective strategies for peace, justice, and conflict resolution?

The work of the seminar will be disseminated in a variety of forms. In order to help establish vocation more firmly in the academic conversation, the group will publish at least one volume of essays with significant scholarly merit. However, we also hope that the group will consider developing other materials. The overall goal of the NetVUE Scholarly Resources Project is the development of resources for the use of faculty members and students at the undergraduate level. The third seminar resulted in the publication of a book, Hearing Vocation Differently: Meaning, Purpose, and Identity in the Multi-Faith Academy, published by Oxford University Press.

For additional information about the NetVUE Scholarly Resources Project, contact NetVUE director David Cunningham by email at dcunningham@cic.nche.edu or by phone at (616) 395-7320.


Multi-Faith Vocational Exploration scholars are:

 
Florence D. Amamoto – Professor Emerita in Japanese Studies and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies Sponberg Chair in Ethics, Gustavus Adolphus College 
 
Jacqueline A. Bussie – Professor of Religion and Director, Forum on Faith and Life, Concordia College (MN)
 
Jeffrey D. Carlson – Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Professor of Theology, Dominican University (IL)
 
Rahuldeep Singh Gill – Associate Professor of Religion, California Lutheran University
 
Katherine J. (“Trina”) Jones – Professor of Religion and Associate Provost for Curriculum & Co-Curriculum, Wofford College 
 
Rachel S. Mikva – Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and Director, Center for Jewish, Christian and Islamic Studies, Chicago Theological Seminary
 
Younus Y. Mirza – Project Director, Barzinji Project for International Collaboration to Advance Higher Education, Shenandoah University
(During the Project: Assistant Professor of Islam, Allegheny College)
 
Anantanand (“Anant”) Rambachan – Professor of Religion, Philosophy, and Asian Studies, St. Olaf College
 
Tracy W. Sadd – Formerly Chaplain and Executive Director for Purposeful Life Work and Ethical Leadership, Elizabethtown College
 
Matthew R. Sayers – Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy, Lebanon Valley College
 
Noah J. Silverman – Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships, Interfaith Youth Core
 
Homayra Ziad – Visiting Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies, Johns Hopkins University
(During the project: Scholar of Islam, Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies )