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MOUNT VERNON — A team of Mount Vernon Nazarene University faculty and staff are exploring how the university can strengthen its ability to assist its students in realizing the impact of their calling, thanks to a NetVUE Professional Development Award.

“Vocation, or calling, is often misunderstood in our culture, as the term has become synonymous with job or occupation,” said Dr. W. Brett Wiley, MVNU Honors Program Director and Professor of English. “For our students at MVNU especially, discerning their vocation is an opportunity to hear a call on their lives. Pursuing one’s vocation means understanding that calling on all aspects of life — from work, to home, to school, to community.

"For MVNU, which seeks to educate the whole person, a conversation about vocation is essential to helping students pursue fulfilling lives with purpose.”

In order to develop a successful approach to vocational discernment across campus, Wiley and Dr. Dora Hawthorne, Associate Professor of English, acquired $9,790 in funding from the Network for Vocational Exploration in Undergraduate Education. The grant is made possible through a generous gift from the Council of Independent Colleges and the Lilly Endowment Inc.

In the application, they suggested the university needs to delve into an intentional, campus-wide conversation to discover what is being done and how those individual initiatives can be molded into a comprehensive strategy. 

“The overall purpose of these efforts is to chart the clearest path to vocational enrichment at Mount Vernon Nazarene University,” the pair wrote in the application. “With this generous grant, we can generate momentum around the project of vocational discernment and begin to weave the practice into the fiber of our institution.”

Wiley and Hawthorne will co-chair the team that includes Tracy Waal, Vice President for Student Life; Joy Strickland, Assistant Vice President for Student Success and Retention; Chip Wilson, Director of Athletics; Carrie Beal, Professor of Biology; Kevin Hughes, Professor of Management; Deb Garee, Assistant Professor of Nursing; Brenita Nicholas-Edwards, Assistant Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness; Stephanie Lobdell, Campus Pastor, and Eric Vail, Assistant Professor of Theology.

MVNU President Dr. Henry W. Spaulding II, is encouraged by the collaborative effort by those following their own calling to Christian higher education. 

“MVNU faculty and staff have always been people of mission and vocation,” Spaulding said. “Those faculty and staff who willingly take on this assignment on top of other responsibilities demonstrate the depth of their calling.”

The team focused on reading and online discussion over the summer months and will soon begin more formal conversations that Wiley is hopeful will lead to establishing the significance and potential of the initiative. The goal, he said, is to “have a vision for the future, consistent terminology, and some ideas for implementation to bring to the campus at large” by summer of 2020.

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