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Bethel gets grant for groups to discuss ‘vocational discernment’

September 10th, 2021

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Bethel got a boost in its process toward becoming a federally recognized work college with a Professional Development Award from a national organization.

The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), through its Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE), has awarded Bethel almost $10,000, to be used during the 2021-22 school year “to deepen vocational exploration and discernment among undergraduate students by supporting the professional development of faculty members and staff.”

The grant is supported by the CIC and Lilly Endowment Inc.

Megan Kershner, Bethel’s director of career and leadership development, wrote the successful grant proposal, and is coordinating a two-semester program of reading groups involving faculty, staff and administrators that started in September and concludes in April 2022.

Twenty-four people are divided into three groups. In the fall, participants in each group will read and discuss At This Time and In This Place: Vocation and Higher Education, and in the spring Vocation Across the Academy: A New Vocabulary for Higher Education, two collections of essays edited by David S. Cunningham.

The final meeting of each semester will be a total-group planning and implementation workshop.

“The language of vocational discernment is not widely used on the Bethel campus,” Kershner said. “In fact, the term ‘vocation’ has been interpreted more as ‘technical education or training.’

“While many college employees understand ‘vocation’ as it pertains to ‘calling,’ there has not been an emphasis in using this language with students during daily instruction or co-curricular activities.

“By having intentional discussions based on compilations of scholarly writing on vocational exploration, we can begin to formulate ways to engage our students with this increasingly important topic,” she continued.

“As Bethel College begins the journey of becoming a work college, the timing for these reflections and discussions is nearly perfect.”  

“Bethel College is [currently] developing its next strategic plan,” noted Jon C. Gering, Bethel president, “and one of our board-affirmed ‘Strategic Priorities’ is to become a federally designated work college. Consequently, our campus conversations about vocation and identity will be vigorous and directional for at least a five-year period.

“This grant is an important part of a much broader institutional arc to position Bethel at the forefront of the higher education landscape with respect to work, vocation, faith formation and the liberal arts.”


About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.