Davidson Offers Area Alumni Thought-Provoking Series on "Vocation"
September 10, 2001
Alumni returning to Davidson for Homecoming on Saturday, September 15, will not only be recalling the good ol' days. The college is also offering them an opportunity to find more satisfaction in their careers.
Homecoming will include a seminar in "Faith at Work" sponsored by the college's new Lilly Program for the Theological Exploration of Vocation. That event, hosted by 1983 graduate Elizabeth Kiss, a college trustee and director of the Kenan Ethics Center at Duke University, will be closely followed by a series of seminars on the same subject for the college's Charlotte-area alumni.
More than 30 alumni have already signed up for the four-week series of Lilly-sponsored programs that begin the week of September 17-21. The Lilly Program director, Tim Beach-Verhey, explained, "Alumni and people in the community I talk to confirm that they're making a good living, and providing a good life to their families, but they wonder about the purpose of what they're doing. Are they helping anyone? Is there significance to what they're doing? They're asking questions about work that transcend the paycheck that comes with it."
Davidson is one of 20 colleges nationwide that received funds from the Lilly Foundation last year to promote the idea that faith applied to the workplace can lead to a more fulfilling career. The foundation contends that people who align their beliefs, values, and principals with their work find it more meaningful, and manifest solidarity and compassion through it.
Davidson has crafted its four-year Lilly Program to encompass not only students, but faculty, staff, townspeople, and alumni of all faiths and religious persuasions. Some aspects directly address the Lilly Endowment's intention to encourage students to consider a career in Christian ministry. Other aspects invite students to consider how their religious faith should influence their vocational choices. Still other aspects invite students who are not religious at all to think about the influence of their values upon their life goals and tasks.
The alum component of the program offers Davidsonians who have already embarked on their careers a chance deepen the significance of work and daily life by relating it to religious faith and the concept of vocation. Charlotte alumni can join one of four small groups, which will meet for a meal and discussion one day per week for a month. They will be assigned a short common reading, and receive a list of questions based on the reading. Beach-Verhey said, "One of them is going to be a sermon on vocation from William Perkins, a 16th century English Puritan. From that, we can talk about the ways in which that definition of vocation fits or doesn't fit with their own work, with modern life, and modern conceptions of work."
Other readings include a recent Fortune magazine cover article entitled, "God & Business," and an essay Joseph Allegretti entitled "Loving Your Job, Finding Your Passion."
Some of the questions the groups will consider include: How do people in your workplace relate to one another, and do those relations signify people who think about themselves as having vocations? What difference does faith in the workplace make? What are the consequences that connecting God and business has on the people and businesses? How does thinking of work as a vocation change your thinking? How would it change your actions?
Rather than leading people to consider different work, Beach-Verhey said he hopes the discussions will help people find more meaning in their current employment. He said, "Every type of work is a mode of service to the larger world. If we can lead them to a new way of thinking about their work, that can lead them to a new quality of relationship between themselves and colleagues, customers, clients, employees, and employers."
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News and World Report magazine. Davidson is currently engaged in "Let Learning Be Cherished," a $250 million campaign in support of student financial assistance, academic resources, and community life.