Developing and Nurturing Purpose in the Academic Life at PLU and in the World

The success of the Wild Hope Center for Vocation is due, in large part, to the work of faculty mentors who engage students with questions of meaning and purpose—in the classroom, in casual conversation, through collaborative research, and in more formal Wild Hope events.

Through a year-long seminar with seven colleagues across the university, faculty are invited to consider the idea that purposeful learning shapes meaningful living, and to discuss ways to mentor students to live into the PLU mission. Each seminar group will meet to study and discuss a variety of matters vital to their profession as faculty at PLU.  They will discuss some important historical materials and debates about vocation, various contemporary issues in pedagogy and higher education, and related controversies in contemporary society and academic disciplines.  These discussions will intersect with consideration of PLU’s mission and individual faculty members’ academic and personal goals.


  • A heightened understanding of the rich, inclusive notion of “vocation” and of the challenges that PLU students face in developing their own senses of purpose in life.
  • A clearer understanding of the specific contributions that individual faculty and the university can best bring to each other.
  • The sheer pleasure of exploring together several “big” contemporary intellectual works.
  • Increased familiarity with each other and each other’s individual work, both scholarship and teaching, and the greater camaraderie that emerges from sustained, collaborative engagement with important intellectual work.

For part of their work the seminars will have a common structure, but each seminar’s participants will also have considerable discretion about the particular topics and readings that they will collectively pursue. Faculty will come to the seminar with statements of their journeys to and within academic life, and of their current understanding of purpose in their lives as professors. Each seminar will have a coordinating facilitator, although leadership of particular components may revolve around the group. Members conclude their participation with a written statement about some concern that has particularly engaged them as a result of the seminar.

Readings and Activities:

Participants will select, read, and discuss several substantial texts. Those will include a classic work on the notion of vocation and its role in society, or on some aspect of Lutheran tradition; noted statements on formation of a sense of vocation, including vocation in teaching; analyses of students’ development of a sense of vocation; and one or more of the “big and pervasively provocative contemporary intellectual works” referred to in the third objective above.

Moreover, participants will contribute exciting materials from their respective disciplines that have cross-disciplinary significance, and they will have the opportunity to share with each other key elements of their own individual scholarship.