Plenary Sessions

The 2013 NetVUE Conference features a diverse lineup of speakers on this year's theme of “Enriching the Theological Exploration of Vocation."
Featured plenary speakers this year include:

Thursday, March 14

3:00–4:15 p.m.
Opening Plenary Session
Big-Enough Questions? The Call For A Worthy Narrative: From Coffee To Cosmos
Today’s emerging adults must seek meaning, purpose, and vocation in a changing and religiously variegated world. What is the role of higher education in assessing the “default settings” and practicing discernment in “the high stakes tournament of world views”? How do we cultivate a deepened capacity for critical, connective, and contemplative thought in a complex, diverse, and morally challenging world? Sharon Daloz Parks, author of Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Emerging Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith (recently revised for its tenth anniversary) and long-time supporter of vocational exploration among college students, will address these questions in fresh and challenging ways.

Sharon Daloz Parks is a senior fellow of the Whidbey Institute in Clinton, Washington, where she serves as principal of Leadership for the New Commons. She also teaches in both the pastoral leadership and executive leadership programs at Seattle University and serves nationally as a lecturer and consultant to a broad range of professional groups, especially those related to higher education. Parks formerly held faculty and research positions at Harvard University in the schools of divinity, business, and the Kennedy School of Government and at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology. She also is the author of Leadership Can Be Taught: A Bold Approach for a Complex World. Her other writings include The Critical Years: Young Adult Search for Meaning, Faith and Commitment; Common Fire: Leading Lives of Commitment in a Complex World (co-authored); and Can Ethics Be Taught? Perspectives, Approaches, and Challenges at Harvard Business School (co-authored). She began her career in higher education as a residence hall director at the University of Redlands and a campus chaplain at Whitworth University. She earned a doctoral degree in theology and human development from Harvard University. She is a past recipient of the CIC Academic Leadership Award.

Friday, March 15
8:45–10:00 a.m.
Plenary Session: Panel of Presidents
Educating for Vocation: Aligning Mission, Culture, and Resources

What are the various ways that NetVUE member campuses align institutional mission and identity with the intellectual and theological exploration of vocation? Three presidents of NetVUE member colleges and universities will consider ways in which vocational exploration can establish a common understanding among faculty members, student affairs professionals, chaplains, and other campus leaders about frameworks for considering undergraduates’ questions about meaning and purpose. In addition, they will discuss how different programmatic efforts to foster vocational exploration have been developed and supported.
  • James L. Edwards, President, Anderson University (IN)
  • Marianne E. Inman, President, Central Methodist University
  • Carol Ann Mooney, President, Saint Mary’s College (IN)
  • Moderator: Robert M. Franklin, Jr., President Emeritus, Morehouse College

1:45–3:00 p.m.
Plenary Session
Changing on Purpose: When Students and Professors Find Their Calling

Based on his national evaluation of the Lilly Endowment’s Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation initiative, noted scholar Tim Clydesdale will present findings from his study of vocational exploration programs, including projects that engage faculty and staff members and effective strategies for successful vocational exploration programs. Clydesdale will describe some of the major lessons of his study, such as vocational exploration as a lever of campus engagement, its incorporation of spirituality, its preparation of emerging adults for the “long slog” from graduation to full adulthood, its capacity to tap institutions’ potential for personal formation and community-building, and its inculcation of “grounded idealism.”

Tim Clydesdale is professor of sociology and chair of the sociology and anthropology department at the College of New Jersey. A first-generation college graduate, he earned his baccalaureate degree at Wheaton College (IL). In 1994 he completed his PhD in sociology at Princeton University. After two years of teaching at Gordon College, Clydesdale joined the College of New Jersey as assistant professor. He has lectured at more than 25 colleges, universities, and scholarly conferences across the U.S. Clydesdale’s research on the post-high school transition culminated in The First Year Out: Understanding American Teens after High School. A subsequent grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. supported research on the effectiveness of undergraduate initiatives with a vocational focus. Clydesdale’s book based on that research, Changing on Purpose: When Students and Professors Find Their Calling, will be published in 2013 by the University of Chicago Press. Already in process are a jointly-authored book on understanding the changing spirituality of emerging adults and further research on the first year beyond college graduation.

Saturday, March 16

10:30 a.m.–Noon
Closing Plenary Session
Communities of Vocation and Practice

Campus communities are essential contexts for the nurture, formation, and exercise of personal vocation and practice—through study, in work, with families, as citizens, and in religious life. Communities can counter individualistic assumptions that most people, including undergraduate students, bring to the questions of career and vocation. They make a profound difference in how people are formed and how they learn to live deeply with conviction. How can campus communities shape ways of being, doing, and thinking that truly give meaning, purpose, and value to fostering a life-giving way into the future. If vocation and the faith-shaped practices that form it are both fundamentally communal in character, how might college and university leaders develop campus communities that enrich the callings of our undergraduates? The former long-serving head of the religion division of Lilly Endowment Inc., Craig R. Dykstra, will address these questions.

Craig R. Dykstra is research professor of practical theology and senior fellow in leadership education at Duke Divinity School. Previously he was the senior vice president for religion at Lilly Endowment Inc., where he served from 1989 to 2012. An ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), he earlier served as the Thomas W. Synnott Professor of Christian Education at Princeton Theological Seminary, editor of Theology Today, associate professor of Christian education at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and assistant minister of Westminster Church of Detroit. Under Dykstra’s leadership, Lilly Endowment Inc. made more than $1.5 billion in grants for religious purposes, including support for the theological exploration of vocation on independent college and university campuses through the Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation (PTEV) and subsequently CIC’s NetVUE. He also has supported efforts that foster excellence in pastoral ministry and congregational renewal across a wide range of denominations, seminaries, and theological traditions. He coedited with Dorothy Bass For Life Abundant: Practical Theology, Theological Education, and Christian Ministry. His book, Growing in the Life of Faith: Education and Christian Practices, was published in a second edition in 2005. He also collaborated with Dorothy Bass in the creation of Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People. Dykstra graduated with an undergraduate degree in philosophy from the University of Michigan. He earned a master of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary, where he also received a PhD in moral theology and Christian education. In 2010 he was the recipient of CIC’s Award for Philanthropy.