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ISSUE 116 VOL 17 PUBLISHED 4/18/2003

Lilly Grants awarded for vocational research

By Jane Dudzinski
News Editor

Friday, April 18, 2003

Next year, four St. Olaf professors will investigate the themes of vocation in connection with their academic fields. This opportunity comes as a result of a recent grant from the Lilly Foundation, which is part of the college’s Program for Discernment of Lives of Worth and Service.

Every year for the next five years, a committee will select one Vocational Scholar and up to five Teaching Fellows. The Vocational Scholar position will enable a professor to teach one less class each semester so that he or she will have time to "publish academic scholarship on the theological consideration of vocation," according to the Center for Experiential Learning (CEL) website.

The Lilly Vocational Scholar for next year will be religion professor Doug Schuurman. Next year, Schuurman plans to revise the manuscript of his book, "Vocation after Christendom," which a publishing company has already accepted.

Schuurman also has plans to compile an anthology of primary source material pertaining to vocation in the Christian tradition, write an article on the nature of Christendom and its significance for vocation and tentatively begin writing a short book on calling and vocation that would appeal to both Christians and non-Christians.

"I am both excited and anxious about next year," Schuurman said. "It is exciting to do work on your own, and then suddenly you find that other people are interested as well … and it has all been sparked by the Lilly program."

In addition to the Vocational Scholar position, the committee has named three Lilly Teaching Fellows. This position gives professors the opportunity to design a class relating to vocation and spirituality during the fall semester, then teach the course during spring semester. Like the other position, Teaching Fellows will teach one less class during the first semester of next year in order to prepare their new course.

Religion Professor John Barbour is one of the Teaching Fellows for 2003-2004. He is currently planning a new course called "God and Faith in Autobiography," which will be a study of autobiographies by Christian writers such as Augustine, C. S. Lewis, and Dorothy Day.

Barbour expressed particular interest in investigating the theme of vocation next year.

"I look forward to working with students and faculty and alumni who are thinking together about what makes work meaningful, and about how Christians understand their work to express their faith," Barbour said.

English Professor Karen Cherewatuk is another Teaching Fellow for next year. She is currently developing a first-year writing seminar called "Work, Profession, Vocation."

Hoping to integrate the idea of vocation across the curriculum, Cherewatuk said that the goal for her new course will be to "distinguish between the hierarchies of work, profession, and vocation … and engage in reading which blurs these boundaries." Her course will have a specific emphasis on interviews, particularly involving the community outside of St. Olaf, exploring the relationship between the three main topics of her class.

Assistant Professor and Refer-ence/Instruction Librarian Elizabeth Hutchins is another one of the 2003-04 Lilly Teaching Fellows.

Next year, Hutchins looks forward to looking at the examining role of the library facility in relation to vocation, a topic about which she said she is especially passionate.

"I think to connect students and faculty with the topic of vocation is intimately connected with creating safe places, where questions are heard and passions are honored," Hutchins said. "I see libraries as a special places, as inviting people to ask questions, as opposed to only just getting answers."

Hutchins said that she plans to compile a detailed bibliography and literature review to "reflect the spectrum of vocational interests embedded in both the disciplinary and interdisciplinary curriculum" that will be available to students and faculty for both academic research purposes as well as pleasure.

Hutchins’ other goal is "to explore the role of the library in supporting and mentoring students and colleagues by enabling them to connect with vocation."

In addition to the individual work of each of the vocational scholars and teaching fellows, all of the professors will participate in a two-day Summer Faculty Mentoring Dialogue workshop and numerous other seminars throughout the year that are organized by CEL.

The Vocational Scholar, in particular, will speak on the topic of vocation at a variety of other colleges, including St. Olaf, at a conference in October 2003 that the religion department is currently planning.

The professors were chosen by a committee of 11 professors and two student representatives, including Lilly Program Director Bruce Dalgaard, also Professor economics and executive director of CEL. Application criteria included an outline for the plan of the intended course or scholarship, a curriculum vitae, and varying letters of recommendation.

The positions of Vocational Scholar and Teaching Fellows compose only one part of the extensive grant from the Lilly Foundation that the college has been awarded.

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