Why did the university go after this $2 million grant from the Lilly Endowment?
Several faculty and administrators, particularly Patricia Killen, then of the Religion Department and then-provost Paul Menzel, became aware of the Lilly Endowment's initiative to foster the exploration of vocation on undergraduate campuses. When it became clear that the Endowment conceived its objective to be broadly to stimulate students' reflection on larger questions about meaning and purpose in relation to educational and life choices, an objective deeply congruent with PLU's understanding of its mission, the President's and Deans' Councils authorized pursuit of planning and then implementation grants.
Will the project make PLU more "religious"?
No, not in any sense that should cause people to object, or to see things as being subtly imposed on them. But definitely yes, in the sense that searching for and thinking critically about meaning and purpose in our lives is always arguably a religious activity. Then, too, the project will not mince words about the challenge to Pacific Lutheran University in a contemporary society where religion is often seen as neither significantly engaged in societal needs nor constructively inclusive of intellectual reflection. PLU's challenge as a unique institution of higher education is to bring all parties, from secularists to the most personally devout, into a circle of intellectually rigorous and societally engaged inquiry that is ultimately concerned about service to others. The Lilly-funded Wild Hope Project certainly aims to assist the university in doing that.