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Callings

Author: Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education

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Conversations on college, career, and a life well-lived. “Callings” explores what it means to live a life defined by a sense of meaning and purpose. It focuses on the process of exploring and discerning one’s vocation, with particular emphasis on mentoring and supporting undergraduate students as they navigate college, career, and a life-well lived. Hosted by the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE).
14 Episodes
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As a young girl in Kittrell, North Carolina, Mary Dana Hinton never imagined she might one day become the president of a college. Driven by a life-long calling to educational equity, she became the 13th president of Hollins University in August 2020 after serving as president of the College of Saint Benedict for many years. In this conversation she shares that on some days her calling feels heavy, and yet the inspiration of her hard-working mother, the encouragement from early mentors, and the uplifting teachings of the black church keep her going. President Hinton chooses to “lead from the margins,” and speaks about the importance of the balance between strength and vulnerability. 
Stars and Constellations

Stars and Constellations

2021-11-3001:13:53

In this episode, we interview Patrick Reyes about his new book, The Purpose Gap: Empowering Communities of Color to Find Meaning and Thrive. Patrick speaks with urgency about our need to lean into the diversity of colleges and universities so that we might be most effective in addressing “the purpose gap” that exists for many students of color. Inviting new metaphors, Patrick suggests that we see our work in vocational exploration in terms of a constellation, operating collaboratively to move entire communities forward (rather than singling out individual “stars”). This process will need to involve significant reflective questioning, an openness to receiving feedback, and above all, love—which Patrick describes as an inheritance from his grandmother and his ancestors.  Patrick’s words of advice will resonate with faculty and students alike: be courageous, because future generations depend upon our boldness.
Neighbor Love

Neighbor Love

2021-10-2701:11:44

During the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jason Mahn began chronicling his “wondering and wanderings,” which are now published under the title Neighbor Love Through Fearful Days: Finding Purpose and Meaning in a Time of Crisis (Fortress, 2021). In this episode, we talk with Jason about his “in the moment” reflections about how we commit ourselves to loving our neighbors during times of social distancing, quarantine, protest, and social unrest. He writes about the threat of white supremacy, the challenges of repentance, and the importance of mundane acts. He urges us to resist stories that are too tidy in their resolution. Jason Mahn is Conrad Bergendoff Chair in the Humanities and director of the Presidential Center for Faith and Learning at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. He was a contributor to NetVUE’s second scholarly resources project volume, Vocation across the Academy, as well as the Vocation Matters blog. He is also a member of the NetVUE Advisory Council.  
In this episode, we talk with Andy Chan, Vice President for Innovation and Career Development at Wake Forest University. We ask Andy about the ways vocation and career overlap, as well as how we might help students rethink success. The provocative title of his TED talk, “Why Career Services Must Die,” is a rallying cry for how the academy can better integrate questions of career and purpose throughout all aspects of the college experience. For Andy, innovation is not just about novelty for its own sake, but about “creating value in new ways that meets the needs of those you serve, and also aligns with who you are and what you value.” Sharing some significant moments in his own vocational journey, Andy emphasizes the importance of “situational mentors” along the way.  Andy helps us see that the categories of mission, core values, and our students’ passions can help us reimagine more instrumentalist models of “career services” as forms of vocational exploration and discernment. 
This bonus episode features highlights from conversations that aired during the first season of Callings. We often ask our guests what advice they might offer to young adults today, and their answers are varied as they are thought-provoking. Listen to this compilation of good advice from insightful people, including Darby Ray, Eboo Patel, Amanda Tyler, Rabbi Rachel Mikva, Father Dennis Holtschneider, and Shirley Showalter. 
The Next Move

The Next Move

2021-07-1301:02:38

In this episode we talk with Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee, which is headquartered on Capitol Hill and advocates for religious freedom for all (a mission that now includes confronting the challenge of Christian nationalism). Drawing on her experience as a trial lawyer and a leader in the not-for-profit sector, Amanda shares with us the ways we are called to walk a line between fidelity to the past and stewardship for the future. She also offers sage advice about vocational reflection and discernment, including the value of internships and the need to seek mentors throughout one’s life. Our vocations unfold, she observes, as we focus on the next move and not the whole game on the chessboard of life.
Becoming Big

Becoming Big

2021-06-0801:11:56

After serving for many years as the president of Goshen College, Shirley Showalter has written an engaging memoir about growing up in a Mennonite community and her efforts to negotiate the lures of the “glittering world.” In this conversation, she shares how she came to write Blush, describes what that process taught her about narrative and story, and reflects on the ambiguities of humility and pride. With a forthcoming book (co-written with Marilyn McEntyre) about grandparenting and becoming an elder, Shirley has much to offer about life’s transitions, including the importance of daily habits of reflection. She encourages us to be wary of pre-fabricated advice from others: “Your vocation to yourself and to your own spirit is your highest vocation.” 
Life, Interrupted

Life, Interrupted

2021-04-3001:08:42

In this episode, we talk with Fr. Dennis Holtschneider, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU). Fr. Dennis shares his insights about leadership and our common call to listen to one another — even when we hold strongly opposing views. He also challenges us to consider “interruption stories,” those moments when we are called to respond to a compelling human need. Drawing on his experience as a teacher, university president, and leader in the healthcare industry, Fr. Dennis considers the ethics of care, our duty to one another, and the importance of “being political” for the common good. From our guest’s chance encounter with Joe Biden to how C.S. Lewis worked for him as a kind of “gateway drug to the heavier stuff,” we get glimpses into a life that would have been “only half as interesting had it been planned.”
Dangerous Ideas

Dangerous Ideas

2021-03-1501:06:38

In this episode, we speak with Rabbi Rachel Mikva, longstanding contributor to NetVUE and author of the new book Dangerous Religious Ideas: The Deep Roots of Self-Critical Faith in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Beacon, 2021). In the book, she probes the ways that the dangers that lurk in our religious identities and convictions can be a force for good or for evil. Rachel unpacks how critique of one’s own tradition—what she calls self-critical faith—can help facilitate conversation about religion in the public sphere. When we engage in such self-critique, we can begin to live our commitments and our callings through what she describes as a “hermeneutic of grace.” We talk with Rachel about the book, her own sense of calling, and what vocation can mean when it feels like the world is coming to an end. 
In this new episode, we talk to Paul Wadell and Charlie Pinches, authors of the new book Living Vocationally: The Journey of the Called Life (Cascade Books, 2021). The authors note that, while we live in a moralizing time, we have a limited vocabulary for describing issues of morality and character with any degree of nuance. They turn to the language of the virtues in order to capture the subtleties of the moral life and to help equip us for whatever life may send our way. The virtue of hope, in particular, accompanies us as we journey through a “bigger story” that encompasses all the seasons of our lives. Born out of the authors’ longstanding friendship, the book is also enriched by their many years of teaching undergraduates (Paul at St. Norbert College and Charlie at the University of Scranton). Enjoy this hour of reflection and storytelling about what it means to “live vocationally.”
Eboo Patel, founder of Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), speaks passionately about work as a craft, and about the promises and pitfalls of charismatic leadership. Invoking such diverse sources as James Baldwin, William Carlos Williams, and The Grateful Dead, Patel discusses shifts in his thinking about leadership and listening as president of a non-profit over the course of the last decade. His forthcoming book explores the role of builders as opposed to critics, and he asks, how might colleges and universities help forge a new generation of builders? What can we do to help college students delve deeper into the complex problems of our time? What might students be able to accomplish, if we relieved them of our culture’s demand that they “make something of themselves,” and instead encouraged them to make something for others?
Annual Trash Day

Annual Trash Day

2020-12-1557:27

Can a person’s calling be shaped by driving into a new town on Annual Trash Day? Find out in this episode, which features Darby Ray, Professor of Civic Engagement at Bates College and co-director of the NetVUE faculty seminar. Darby encourages us to undertake what she describes as “necessary homework”—attending to ourselves and to our communities—and thereby emphasizes the importance of cultural humility and awareness. Vocation can offer us an experience of beauty and joy in a dark and harrowing world, prompting the serious work of engaging with others in intentional and mutual partnerships. We also learn about Darby’s mid-career call that took her from Mississippi to Maine, and how feminist and liberation theologies inform her work. Darby’s essay, “Self, World, and the Space Between: Community Engagement as Vocational Discernment” appeared in the NetVUE volume At This Time and In This Place: Vocation and Higher Education (Oxford UP, 2016). She is the author of Working (2011), Incarnation and Imagination: A Christian Ethic of Ingenuity (2008), and Theology That Matters: Ecology, Economy, and God (2006).
Leading Lives That Matter

Leading Lives That Matter

2020-11-0201:06:57

The book Leading Lives That Matter is a much-loved collection of vocation-related readings oriented toward undergraduate students. A new edition was published this summer, updated with new sections and several new readings, including pieces by Pope Francis, Malcolm Gladwell, Winona LaDuke,  Jhumpa Lahiri, Wangari Maathai, Toni Morrison, Larry Rasmussen, and Alice Walker. In this interview, editors Mark Schwehn and Dorothy Bass talk about the fortuitous events that led to the original project and the issues that guided their thinking in putting together the new edition. They also share stories about their own life trajectories, describe their understanding of each of their lives’ callings, and muse about their favorite texts to teach.
Shirley Roels, the founding director of NetVUE, currently serves as the executive director of the International Network for Christian Higher Education. In this inaugural episode of Callings, Shirley shares some of the twists and turns in her own life and describes the three “intertwined threads” that have informed her career: higher education, faith-based institutions, and organizational management.  At each moment of vocational reflection, Shirley has asked the question, “What needs doing that I can do?” 
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