Vocation at Scranton

Students and parents rightly anticipate that university education will prepare them for life. Partly this involves attaining skills that will be useful later on as graduates take jobs and enter the professional world. However, particularly as a university that accents the liberal arts and is guided by its Ignatian vision, the University of Scranton believes preparation for life is much broader than imparting information and forming skills that can be useful in this way. We hope, rather, that students will be transformedby their education at Scranton, and so equipped to proceed to full lives given in service to others.

This is conveyed by the phrase “preparing men and women for others,” a motto of Jesuit education. As Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J. former Superior General of the Society of Jesus explains in his 1979 speech at Georgetown University:

Our purpose in education, then, is to form men and women "for others." The Society of Jesus has always sought to imbue students with values that transcend the goals of money, fame and success. We want graduates who will be leaders concerned about society and the world in which they live. We want graduates who desire to eliminate hunger and conflict in the world and who are sensitive to the need for more equitable distribution of the world's goods. We want graduates who seek to end sexual and social discrimination and who are eager to share their faith with others. In short, we want our graduates to be leaders in service. That has been the goal of Jesuit education since the sixteenth century. It remains so today.

In this spirit, a distinction can be drawn between preparing students for a “career” and preparing them for a “calling.” We usually associate “career” with our job or employment; it is something that each of pursues on his or her own, with the idea of becoming a “success” as that is usually defined in Western culture. The idea of a “calling” is more expansive. It involves us more deeply, the whole of us. It can include our job, our employment, but it encompasses more, and also asks more of us as it stretches us forward to become better people, who are able to contribute to the common good through the full span of our lives.

The idea of a “calling” is synonymous with that of “vocation,” despite the fact that that terms has sometimes been reserved for the Religious, as one might have a “vocation” to be a priest or nun. In fact, however, the Christian faith that roots the University of Scranton believes all of us are called by God to love and serve, in the unique way that is most suited to us in all our particularity. As the writer Frederick Buechner has said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

The University of Scranton is not the only place where this occurs; in fact, a growing number of private colleges and universities are coming to articulate this vision of education more explicitly. The University is joined with almost 200 other schools as members in “NetVUE” – the Network for Vocation in University Education. A grant from NetVUE has helped support our own efforts in the First Year Seminar.

As this vision for education deepens at the University of Scranton and becomes increasingly evident to its students, the FYS will continue to function as the first place in which it is actively articulated, examined and tried out. In this way, the First Year Seminar occupies a privileged place as the gateway to four years of education that can mold and shape us to live fully human lives, dedicated to wisdom, service and excellence.

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