Vocation across the Academy: A New Vocabulary for Higher Education


This book demonstrates that vocation and calling can serve as a new vocabulary for higher education—encouraging faculty and students alike to venture out of their narrow disciplinary specializations and to reflect on larger questions of meaning and purpose. These essays advance the cause of vocational reflection well beyond its occasional mention in general education courses and career placement offices. The book’s thirteen contributors include biologists and musicians, sociologists and engineers, doctors and lawyers, college presidents and deans, and scholars of history, literature, and business administration. Together, they demonstrate that vocation can play an important role across the entire range of academic disciplines and applied fields. Today’s students face significant questions about the nature and meaning of work, about the goals of education, and about the overall shape that their lives will take beyond graduation. Regardless of their majors, all undergraduates need to consider their current and future responsibilities, determine the stories they will live by, and discover resources for addressing the tensions that will inevitably arise among their multiple callings. The questions and struggles of these students are addressed by the book’s contributors, who also highlight the communal nature of vocational reflection and recommend ways of overcoming potential institutional obstacles to carrying it out. Both as a whole and through its individual chapters, Vocation across the Academy will help to reframe current debates about the purpose of higher education.