Who are the Wild Hope Fellows?

The Wild Hope Fellows were created in 2014 by the Center for Vocation in order to nurture a yearly cohort of students who will study Lutheran as well as other perspectives on vocation and then undertake projects in the university that welcome students into thoughtful reflection on leading lives of meaning and purpose, now and when they graduate.

Each spring semester candidates are nominated by members of the Center for Vocation Steering Committee.  The nominees are then invited to apply and interview for the fellowship. Those who are selected meet regularly with Wild Hope leaders, Dr. Marit Trelstad (Religion), and Ms. Laree Winer (Student Life) to learn collaboratively about the origins, meaning, and practice of vocation at PLU. Wild Hope Fellows receive a stipend of $1000 for their participation in the cohort.

As Fellows meet throughout the year, they should find themselves understanding rich and varied views of vocation; be able to describe and critically question Lutheran perspectives on vocation; recognize how PLU’s commitment to vocation supports its educational mission; demonstrate practical skills that nourish reflection on vocation (e.g., appreciative listening; silence; meditation); discuss vocation with other students; and serve as public representatives of the Center for Vocation at university events.

The Center for Vocation welcomes the eighth cohort of Fellows for the 2021-22 academic year.

Meet the Fellows

Rahel is studying Biology, and believes that healthcare is a universal human right and feels passionate about helping that right be recognized across the U.S. and around the world. She believes that vocation cannot be manufactured but must arise organically from “centering our true selfhood.” She recognizes that her vocation changes as she experiences life and learns more about the world. To Rahel, seeking human and ecological flourishing means making the world a more livable place for society and the ecosystem by providing systemic and realistic approaches. She can be described as compassionate, inquisitive, and hardworking. Rahel feels appreciated when her work is recognized by and inspires others, and she feels joy when she looks out her window at the majesty of Mount Rainier. Some of her most cherished days of the year are the various Ethiopian holidays, which involve time spent with family, feasts, dancing, and happiness. 

Sophia is studying Elementary Education, following her calling to teach little humans to be life-long learners. She believes that vocation involves using her knowledge to better the world around her, as we each have an obligation to care for each other and the earth. For Sophia, to seek human and ecological flourishing means to “not just live a humdrum life, but to learn, grow, and thrive.” She sees immense worth in the smallest of deeds, and nothing brings her greater joy than contributing to make the world even a little better than how she found it. Sophia values time spent with the people she loves, and loves her birthday because she uses the day to give back to them. She feels appreciated when her loved ones truly see her for who she is and call out her gifts. Togetherness and human connection are central to Sophia’s life. 

Elizabeth is majoring in Biology with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. Guided by her own family’s experience with illness, she feels called to help people through making science more considerate and ethical. When she thinks about her role in promoting human and ecological flourishing, she considers how the interconnectedness of place and identity in supporting the most vulnerable: “land is tied to people and people are tied to land.” Her understanding of her own vocation is dynamic, and discerning it requires her to wonder what will serve both herself and others. She believes that service plays a big role in vocation, and helps her to keep going despite the challenges. She wants to spend time on the things that matter most to her, including working with the Center for Gender Equity and taking time for self-care. If she had a day off and nothing to do, she would turn off her phone and be present, perhaps walking around and exploring a new place. 

Nick Etzell

Nick is studying Business and Environmental Studies, with a minor in Innovation Studies. He chose these disciplines not because he felt called specifically to one, but because they are all important pieces of understanding the world we inhabit in a holistic way. He is still in the process of discerning his vocation, but strives to leave a positive impact on everyone he meets. His favorite ways to connect with others include working as an RA, playing Ultimate Frisbee, and just meeting up with people one-on-one. A fun fact about Nick is that around the beginning of the pandemic, he climbed a different tree every day for 46 days, which was a great practice in consistency. When asked what role service plays in vocation, he offered up this quote by Picasso: “The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away.” 

Trevor is studying Music Education, hoping to teach high school and eventually teach at the university level. Music has been a way for him to tell and process his own story, therefore he is inspired to impart knowledge and enrich the lives of others. As a future educator, Trevor believes that his role in seeking human flourishing is to help individuals achieve their goals and reach their full potential. He believes service is an integral part of vocation, and is intertwined with ethics. Every action we take impacts someone else, and we must ask ourselves whether we are helping or hurting. When thinking about ecological flourishing, he considers the ways in which we interact with one another. Trevor feels appreciated when he has earned another’s trust, and he can be described as passionate, thoughtful, and engaged. His favorite time of the year is the Spring Equinox, as he loves to soak in the glory of the PNW.

Chance is studying biology, and wants to use it to help others understand and enjoy the beauty of nature. While he is still discerning his own vocation, he believes that vocation is a gift, and that it is about serving others. Chance feels called to use his talents and abilities to help those who are struggling. He values spending time with his family and friends and hard work. Chance is energized when others recognize his hard work and dedication. If he had a day off and nothing to do, he would spend it outdoors, either fishing or exploring. His favorite day of the year is Christmas because it’s an opportunity to spend time with family and share good food.

Kiah is double majoring in Religion and Social Work, motivated by her own faith to serve others and uplift the oppressed. She finds value in gleaning wisdom from our elders: When she was a little girl, an elderly woman told her she would be a pastor one day. She believes that the purpose of life is to make it better for other people, and that vocation is something that can be integrated into any space by creating ripples of joy. She believes that vocation is something that is constantly evolving and shaped by our social context. If she had a day off and nothing to do, she’d spend it at a Cat Cafe. As an ambivert, she enjoys spending time alone and with others. Her love language is words of affirmation, and she can be described as optimistic, dependable and driven. 

Bridget is studying nursing, and believes this work is tied to her sense of purpose. She believes that if we have the ability to help others, we should. She deeply values both education and health, both of which tend to get taken for granted, especially before the pandemic. When asked what role service plays in vocation, she explains that service is something done voluntarily, therefore vocation is not an obligation but a passion. She feels most appreciated when people show her gratitude for something she did for them, and describes herself as an introverted extrovert. She is energized by listening to her favorite songs, and especially likes music by Jaden Smith. 

Luis is double majoring in Environmental Studies and Biology, and dreams of being a marine biologist. He feels called to care and advocate for animals and find solutions to save them from the anthropogenic era. Luis believes that vocation is not an end goal, but something that can be claimed at any point, as we must own up to what we are good at. He sees his role in human flourishing to be an active listener and uplift marginalized voices, and his role in ecological flourishing is to recognize the worth of all living beings and aid in creating cleaner, thriving underwater ecosystems.  He also works at the Center for Gender Equity as an Alger Scholar, designing and implementing programming for Queer and Trans individuals. He feels appreciated when he is given words of affirmation, and can be described as charismatic, compassionate, and adventurous. His favorite day of the year is Christmas, because of the caring atmosphere and giving spirit, the way life should be all the time.

Ryan is studying Physics and Environmental Studies. The first of these disciplines is for his own enjoyment, and the second is for its relevance to our current environmental crisis. When he first started thinking about vocation, he found the idea stressful and put pressure on him. Now his perspective has shifted, and he sees vocation as something that changes with time and context. He feels that service has everything to do with vocation; simply stating, “how can I best use my gifts to serve my neighbor?”  Referencing Frederick Beuchner, Ryan explains that in order to truly find one’s purpose, one must be both serving a need in the world and find joy in it: it’s better for both self and for others. He feels most appreciated when others recognize him and call him by name, especially in a time where everyone is wearing masks. Ryan is energized when it rains, because it brings up childhood memories of playing soccer in the rain.