St. Olaf CollegeLilly Program for Lives of Worth and ServiceSt. Olaf College

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»What is Vocation?

»Lilly Program Committee

Lilly Grant Program for Lives of Worth and Service
Bruce Dalgaard Program Director
Modular Village
1520 St. Olaf Avenue
Northfield, MN 55057

507-786-3626 Fax


Faculty and Staff


Linked Courses of Vocation
The Lilly grant provides funds for pairs of faculty members to team-up and prepare thematically linked courses broadly addressing the idea of vocation across the curriculum. "Linked courses" means courses in two different departments whose subjects overlap to provide a rich, interdisciplinary encounter with some important theme. For this program, the theme is vocation. The courses may be new offerings or existing courses modified to emphasize the common theme. The course syllabi may be closely or loosely interconnected. The courses must fulfill GE requirements and be offered for registration as a pair, with students required to register for both courses. The grant will provide one course release for each one of up to four faculty members (two pairs of faculty).

In the first round of linked courses, this opportunity was awarded to Steve Hahn (history) and Colin Wells (English), who will offer two linked courses, "Discerning the Spirit in American Literature" and "Heeding the Call in American History." Students who take the two courses will create a small learning community who focus closely on promises and perils in the fact that American history is in large part a story of people and groups acting according to a belief that they are following the call of God. The courses will be offered for the first time in the fall of '05. Professors Hahn and Wells will each have one course release in the spring of '05 to prepare the courses and make suitable administrative arrangements to support the pairing.

As with all aspects of the Lilly Grant Program, the idea of vocation may be broadly construed as an invitation to reflect on life and work as expressions of meaning or values. Or, it may be more narrowly construed as a theological way of understanding the meaningfulness of life and work as a response to God's call.

In addition to preparing their linked courses, faculty members receiving the course release will be asked to participate in a lunch hour workshop to explain and promote the idea of linked courses. Successful applicants are expected to offer the linked courses at least twice.

Faculty Development Workshops
As part of St. Olaf's commitment to a liberal arts education, every student is required to take an integrative ethics (EIN) course, allowing students to apply a variety of normative perspectives to the analysis of a range of personal and social issues. Faculty from across the college offer advanced courses addressing questions of justice, morality, rights and responsibilities, often in the context of a student's major. Instructors have been specially trained to teach these courses through intensive development workshops, giving participants the equivalent of two graduate courses in philosophical and theological ethics.

The Lilly Endowment grant contributes to this program in two ways:

  1. The first is a set of summer "refresher" workshops, held for two weeks each in 2004 and 2005. Each will involve at least 10 participants from previous workshops and will discuss ways the EIN courses can engage students in linkages between vocation, career, occupation and living lives of worth and service.

  2. The Lilly Endowment grant will also help to fund workshops to train more faculty to teach the EIN courses. These sessions will focus explicit attention on theological and philosophical writings on vocation such as Landon Gilkey's Shantung Compound, Lee Hardy's The Fabric of this World: Inquiries into Calling, Career Choice, and the Design of Human Work, Doug Schuurman's Protestant Vocation After Christendom, and the body of scholarship on servant-leadership.

Vocational Readings

Elizabeth Hutchins, former Teaching Fellow, prepared a detailed bibliography on the topic of vocational discernment. For the complete bibliography, click here.

Vocation Resource Library
A vocational resource center has been established in the CEL that offers resources for student, faculty and staff and that relate to vocation, as emphasized through the Lilly Grant Program. Some books of interest may be:

Vocation: Discerning Our Callings In Life; Doug Schuurman

Big Questions, Worthy Dreams; Sharon Daloz Parks ~ Soul of a Citizen; Paul Rogat Loeb

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; Stephen Covey

Exploring Leadership; Komives, Lucas and McMahon

Common Fire; Daloz; Keen and Parks

Answering Your Call;
John Schuster

Crossing the Unknown Sea; David Whyte

Let Your Life Speak; Parker Palmer

These titles, along with a variety of many other resources, are in the CEL (Old Main Annex 3) and available to check out for three-week periods during office hours of 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., M-F. Please stop by and see what is available for your summer reading!