Our Story


In 2003, former PLU provosts Paul Menzel and Patricia Killen secured a $2 million grant from the Lilly Endowment to launch a program for the exploration of vocation at PLU.



What do we mean by vocation? Our understanding of this term is informed by Martin Luther’s view: a vocation is a calling to work with others for the good of others. In the Wild Hope Center for Vocation we speak of vocation as being called to promote human and ecological flourishing. This understanding aligns perfectly with PLU’s educational mission to link “thoughtful inquiry” (learning) with “service and care for other people, their communities, and the Earth.”

While PLU offers a quality education to undergraduates in a variety of disciplines, the Center adds value to a PLU education by helping students, staff, and faculty consider how their lives might promote “human and ecological flourishing.” Among the 95 schools who received Lilly money, PLU has been rated as one of the top five schools who used grant funds to help all members of the university: seminars for faculty on the vocation of teaching and mentoring students; workshops and seminars for staff on mentoring students in vocation; workshops for PLU alumni; and events for students that invite them to ask Big Questions about the meaning and purpose of their lives beyond a major or minor. This is a distinctive dimension of a PLU education that few schools in the Pacific Northwest offer.

In 2011, the PLU faculty established the Wild Hope Center for Vocation as a permanent center within the university. Since then, the Center has continued its work to help students, staff, faculty, and alumni shape lives of meaning and purpose by promoting human and ecological flourishing. Center leadership includes the director, associate director, director of vocational reflection, director of external relations, student intern, and an advisory board of faculty and staff.

We have had good success with a variety in initiatives
Since its inception, Wild Hope has prepared and sponsored a variety of programs and events that assist the university community in the work of vocation.

  • For first year students, an EXPLORE retreat that introduces PLU’s commitment to vocation
  • For sophomores, workshops on aligning majors with meaningful and purposeful living
  • For juniors, Wild Hope Student Fellows who spend a year, with a stipend, exploring vocation in depth and then working in their senior year among other students
  • For staff, vocation seminars – the only professional continuing education program offered to staff at PLU – on discovering one’s vocation and mentoring student workers in vocation
  • For faculty, seminars on the vocation of teaching, aligning teaching with the university’s educational mission, and mentoring students through discussion of vocation in the classroom

In addition to members of the university community, the Center offers workshops for PLU regents, the Alumni Board, and regional clergy on the vocation of a congregation. In addition, the Center has sponsored research on how the promotion of vocation makes a difference in the lives of students, staff, and faculty.