Earlier this year, Goshen College received a grant of $25,000 dollars allowing faculty and students to pursue unique avenues that explore the relationships between faith and vocational interests. The grant was given from the program NetVUE, whose goal is to aid undergraduate students to combine theology and vocation.
Campus Ministries took the lead on the grant and has given a group of 10 faculty members the opportunity to develop personal projects to accomplish these goals. The faculty members are in the process of recruiting groups of eight to 10 students to help work on these projects, which range from racial identities to environmental stewardship and evolution.
Angelia Forrest, financial aid assistant director, based her project around students from varying ethnic and religious backgrounds from differing majors. Together, the group will attend several different church services form different denominations. After each service, an open panel discussion will be held with four or five professionals with varying careers to discuss how their faith intersects with their vocation.
Davonne Kramer, Coordinator of Retention and Intercultural Student Support, will look at how African American students on campus explore their individual faith. Goshen College, being a predominately white institution, offers a very different faith experience for some, especially students of color entering into the Mennonite community. Students will spend time discussing how their personal faith and experiences impact their studies.
Jennifer Schrock, Director of Merry Lea Communications, will focus on preserving the earth during discussions on climate change, and how these may relate to personal faith and vocation. This group’s project aims to practice having healthy interfaith communication and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses that our own faith traditions may bring to caring for the planet. One of the group’s first activities will be an overnight retreat at Merry Lea, Jan. 13-14.
Jonathon Schramm, Associate Professor of Sustainability and Environmental Education, focuses on two distinct areas: discussions around faith, identity and place, as well as field trips to make time with religious leaders in the region from a variety of faith backgrounds. The project seeks to answer the questions on how our physical place on earth affects how we go about our work and faith commitments and how we care for others through those. These will be carried out through Saturday field trips throughout the semester to visit these leaders.
Josh Gleason, athletic director, will be seeking to answer the question: can faith and athletic competitiveness co-exist? This is a question that Gleason has often wrestled with alongside student-athletes at GC. The group will conduct an array of surveys, interviews and meetings with team chaplains to hear their answers, as well as form their own.
Justin Heinzekehr, Director of Institutional Research, Assessment and Effectiveness, will look at the phenomenon of multiple religious belonging, that being those who claim membership in more than one religion. Sometimes there are some who may dismiss this idea as they see it as “consumer religion” or even cultural appropriation. Students who take on this project will read short articles and speak with several people who claim this type of religious pluralism. Some of the speakers are Drew Baker, a librarian who claims to be Lutheran and Buddhist; Nazia Islam, a graduate student from Muslim, Hindu and indigenous traditions; and Monica Coleman, a professor at Claremont School of Theology.
Kris Schmidt, associate professor of biology, will develop space for students of multi-religious or multi-denominational backgrounds to discuss the intersections of science and faith. Students will engage scholars outside of people who specialize in faith, with talking points including evolution, biological complexity, the brain and soul, and more.
Long Tran, associate professor of education and political science, will engage the politics of interfaith dialogue. Tran sees this type of dialogue as something essential for building bridges across different faiths. This methodology is based on the theory that multi-cultural conversation can lead personal emancipation and social liberation. Students will participate in difficult conversations and practice their dialogue skills.
Pat Lehman, professor of communication, will have a project that will have students interviewing people of their vocational interest: one of a different faith and another of a different culture. This also grants students the opportunity to begin networking within their vocation of interest.
Regina Shands Stoltzfus, assistant professor of peace, justice and conflict studies, will examine religious traditions and commitments alongside racial identities. Students will develop the ability to speak coming from a predominately white denomination to speak into the current area of racial unrest, especially when experienced by people of color at the hands of law enforcement. Initial conversations will be around developed “racial autobiographies” and continue exploring racial identities in the context of changing socio-political climates.
Projects will take place next semester, spring 2017. Along with their respective projects, students will also engage the book “Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation” by Eboo Patel. Those interested in becoming involved in any of these projects, can contact the group leaders via email. Other questions can be directed to Bob Yoder, campus pastor.