A grant of $25,000 has been awarded to Goshen College Campus Ministries to help students and faculty explore the intersection of faith and vocational interests.

The grant comes from NetVUE, a program of the Council of Independent Colleges. NetVUE’s website describes its mission as “enrich the intellectual and theological exploration of vocation among undergraduate students.”  The Lilly Endowment is financing this CIC initiative.

Bob Yoder, campus pastor, plans to divide the $25,000 grant into 10 smaller grants, each to be given to a group of students and a professor, administrator or staff member, to pursue projects that will help them examine future career opportunities within the context of their faith.

Each group will carry out an approved project that explores one of the leaders’ disciplines or passions. Through this project, the group will gain a better understanding as to how the interfaith and intercultural layers that are present at the college can impact their own vocational interests.

Though each of the 10 groups will be working on separate projects, one theme connects them all. Eboo Patel’s “Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, in the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation” will be a required text for all of the groups.

Yoder sees this book as a “common denominator” for groups to use and interpret as they will, since Patel grapples with many of the same ideas Yoder feels are necessary to discuss on our campus. This is also a book that all first year students are studying in one of their main core classes, Identity, Culture and Communication.

Patel, a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships, is a Muslim American from Chicago who advocates for religious pluralism in this country.  In “Acts of Faith,” he discusses growing up Muslim in America, during times such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

He weaves in his religious journey, starting as a person who placed little value on his faith identity to founding of Interfaith Youth Core. With the hope of achieving religious pluralism in the United States, the Interfaith Youth Core is an organization that bases itself on college campuses across the nation.

“Year after year I see Goshen’s demographics changing,” Yoder said, “with more and more people being open and willing to learn about different faith perspectives. We need help, and this is an opportunity for that.”

Yoder said that through Goshen’s Identity, Culture and Community classes, first-year students are encouraged to better flesh out their identities. Through a faith lens, however, this isn’t enough. “This book brings [faith] front and center for people to deal with,” he said.

Josh Garcia, a first-year student, seemed to already grasp the ideas Yoder is striving to get across.

“While everyone has their own roots, one way in which we can grow spiritually is through making connections with other traditions,” said Garcia.

Yoder explained that in nearly every discipline, some kind of faith development is important, even if it is not one’s own. He cited business and nursing majors as examples. Students who go into business may interact with potential business partners from around the world with differing faith views, and a nurse may care for a patient who has a unique faith experience. In both cases, he said humility and understanding of those ideals is imperative.

When asked which types of projects this program will support, Yoder stated that he is seeking a range.

“Our goals for these mini-projects are stated in the explanation of the grant: a diversity of perspectives is encouraged; including ethnic, racial and religious perspectives,” he said. The projects are also not limited to professors but will ideally have a mix of staff members as well as those professors.

The deadline for online entries for the mini-grants was Sept. 15, with the recipients of the awards to be named on Oct. 1. Throughout the remainder of the semester, the groups will hold several orientation and recruiting sessions for students. Fall semester will commence the beginning of the projects for the groups. By the end of the spring semester, the groups will present their final reports.

In addition to all of their learnings, Yoder hopes to receive reports as to which practices have been effective in combining faith and vocation with the intent of incorporating these practices into Campus Ministries’s practices.