Denison Receives $1.99 Million Grant to Study 'Vocation and a Call to Wholeness'
Posted: December 9, 2002
Denison University is one of 39 colleges and universities in the country to receive a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. that begins or enhances programs that help prepare college students to consider "vocation" in the broadest sense, to think beyond career to calling.
These four-year liberal arts colleges-all originally founded by religious denominations have devised programs that encourage their students to reflect on how their ethical values and faith commitments are related to their career choices and what it means to be "called" to lives of service beyond college.
Denison University was founded by early Ohio Baptists and recognizes its historic affiliations. Today it operates without formal denominational ties.
Denison will receive $1.99 million over five years for a comprehensive program to encourage and enable students, faculty and staff to reflect theologically and ethically on issues of vocation in the context of a reinvigorated religious life program. The centerpiece of this effort will be the appointment of a full-time college chaplain who will help students and faculty address issues of meaning and vocation and foster conversation about the link between faith and learning. Other program activities include internships in local churches; student workshop assistants; short-term opportunities to experience seminary life and study; new-student orientation; vocational reflection retreats for sophomore students; and summer institutes, reading groups, seminars and lectures for faculty and staff.
"This is a wonderful affirmation of themes that are deeply embedded in our history," said Denison President Dale T. Knobel, "and, with the Foundation's support, this initiative will have enduring consequences for Denison. Its impact will be transformational. The Foundation's generosity will enable us, as a secular institution, to attend to the spiritual needs of our students and enhance their reflection upon vocation."
Central to the initiative will be the hiring of a full-time chaplain to expand upon responsibilities currently addressed by a half-time appointment.
"In studies we did preparatory to applying for this grant, we came to recognize that students feel the campus needs a highly visible pastoral presence, a person whose own religious journey is one with which they can identify," said the Rev. Dr. David O. Woodyard, Denison professor of religion and lead author of the proposal. "They need a chaplain who is visible, caring, and forthrightly a person of faith. The recruitment of such a person will be a substantial element in the 'move toward wholeness' that we envision as the outcome of our work."
Denison's provost, David Anderson, commented that the grant will provide benefits to Denison both in and out of the classroom.
"It will enable us to sponsor summer seminars for faculty to think through issues related to vocation, to pursue research into a variety of related questions, and to develop new courses for Denison students centered on the subject of the choice of life's work," he said. "So, the Lilly Endowment grant will enrich our curriculum and broaden our campus conversation about vocation."
Totaling $76.8 million, the 39 grants represent the third round of the Endowment's initiative called Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation. The first round, in 2000, awarded grants totaling $37.7 million to 20 schools. The second round, in 2001, awarded grants totaling $56.8 million to 29 schools. This third round brings the total of implementation grants to $171.3 million to 88 schools across the country. (The Endowment also has invested $5.5 million in helping schools develop planning grants for these awards.)
The Endowment invited the colleges to reflect on their particular strengths, history and mission in designing proposals so that the programs would "fit" each institution well. "Consequently, the result is a wonderful amalgam of creative programs that are clearly well thought out and have a real chance of success," said Craig Dykstra, Endowment vice president for religion.
"Colleges that received grants in the earlier rounds are reporting very successful implementation of their plans' their students are eager to engage in theological reflection as they make choices about their future, and many students are seriously considering the ministry as a career.
"Furthermore," he said, "people in these schools are getting together with each other to exchange ideas and tell each other about the most promising aspects of their projects, so the 'infrastructure' of connections keeps building. We think that will greatly enhance both their common purposes and the Endowment's ultimate objectives of a talented new generation of ministers leading healthy and vibrant congregations."
Founded in 1937, the Endowment is an Indianapolis-based private foundation that supports its founders' wishes by supporting the causes of religion, community development and education.
Denison University, founded in 1831, is an independent, residential liberal arts institution located in Granville, Ohio. A highly selective college enrolling 2,100 full-time undergraduate students from all 50 states and dozens of foreign countries, Denison is a place where innovative faculty and motivated students collaborate in rigorous scholarship, civic engagement and the cultivation of independent thinking.
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