Earlier this month, the Lilly Endowment Program recognized two particular professors for their commitment towards exploring the impact and importance of their vocations: Professor of English Carol Holly and Associate Professor of Political Science Dan Hofrenning.
The Lilly Endowment Program is part of the Lilly Endowment, Inc., an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation. Created in 1937, the goal of the foundation is to stimulate the development of religion and education in various communities worldwide. In 2002, the Lilly Endowment, Inc. gave St. Olaf a five-year, $2 million grant to promote the production of published works centering around the theological exploration of vocation. St. Olaf, in turn, used the grant to establish the Lives of Worth and Service program.
Headed by Bruce Dalgaard, executive director of the Center for Experiential Learning (CEL), the Lives of Worth and Service program offers opportunities to faculty and students alike who find themselves curious about exploring their own notions of vocation. The program allows students to apply for internships, retreats and essay contests, while at the same time holding workshops to provide guidance to those who are struggling with their own life goals.
Tenured and tenure-track faculty members are eligible to apply for the positions of Lilly Teaching Fellowship and Lilly Vocational Scholar, both of which allow recipients to drop courses from their teaching load to make time for the preparation of publishable scholarship on the consideration of vocation.
The selection criterion is stringent for Lilly Vocational Scholars, and usually results in one Lilly Scholar each year. However, due to extra funds, the Lives of Worth and Service program was permitted to select two St. Olaf professors to serve as next school year's Lilly Vocational Scholars. For the duration of the 2007-2008 school year, Holly and Hofrenning have been awarded a respite from their yearly six-class schedule in order to engage in research projects centering on the subject of vocational calling.
Holly intends to explore her own chosen vocation, teaching, by examining the role that she and other professors play in the St. Olaf community. "I want to talk about whats at the heart of teaching, both for me and for other teachers, including my colleagues," she said.
She also plans to explore her interest in little-known 19th-century women authors and writing two essays focusing around the literary and religious vocations of writer Rose Terry Cooke.
Hofrenning will research the contributions that members of the St. Olaf community make to civic life. "St. Olaf has a tradition of graduating people who become distinguished public servants, as well as critical citizens," he said. "But we don't think enough about the contributions St. Olaf can make to civic life. This is a chance to see if we can enhance that tradition." Hofrenning plans to research the political activities of his own students by taking them to the New Hampshire primaries, where he will research how being at the forefront of American politics influences his students own political ideals and aspirations.
While the 2007-2008 school year has yet to begin, Holly and Hofrenning are already hard at work getting ready for their newest, and possibly most inspiring life roles thus far: the vocation--not the job--of being a Lilly Scholar.