The Lilly Vocational Scholar is relieved of two of the six courses he or she is required to teach each year in exchange for undertaking projects that further vocation at St. Olaf and across the nation.
"It's a great gift," Farrell said of the extra time. People often choose to be professors so they will have time to think, but time available for thinking is often taken up by classes, grading and other duties, he said.
Farrell stated that his goal as the Lilly Vocational Scholar is to broaden the focus of vocation from a simple career choice to a broader definition. Farrell, a Catholic, said that vocation was defined as only a calling to a life as a priest or a nun.
"We usually think about vocation as being called to serve, but I'd like to also think about vocation as being called to con-serve and pre-serve," Farrell said.
Farrell also wishes to explore the vocation of being a student.
"I'll be paying attention to the common things we ordinarily take for granted showers and drinking fountains, sidewalks and parking lots, hamburgers and French fries, beer and booze, books and paper, computers and condoms, lawns and potted plants, prairies and wetlands," he said.
Farrell has already begun work on a book entitled The Nature of College and will use this opportunity to continue to work on it. The book will address "what college teaches us about the environment, in and out of the classroom, and how any college really works as an organic machine," Farrell wrote in his application letter for the scholarship.
Farrell will also work on an article called "All-Consuming Vocation: The Work of Consumption."
Farrell, in line with his goal to shift the colloquial definition of vocation, hopes this article will show that vocation is not just about production but also about consumption.
"I'd like to think about the work of consumption and our calling to consume carefully which is to say, to consume as a practice of care for creation," Farrell said in his letter.
Farrell will also spread the word of sustainability and vocation through speaking engagements and lectures at St. Olaf and at other colleges, churches and conferences.