Dr. Lynn Cooper
Professor, Communication | 2014/15 faculty fellow
Opus is a natural extension of the work I do as an advisor and teacher, and fills a space that has not been addressed well on campus. My fellowship has provided a vocabulary for lectures, framed extended conversations with individual students, and led to useful insight of how we become – and remain -- stewards of our lives for God’s purposes. I've read a half-dozen books on faith and vocation since the start of the school year, and been able to interact with the authors face to face at Opus events (Steve Garber, Amy Sherman, Katherine Leary Alsdorf, and Andy Crouch to name several). The conferences and communities of faith (e.g., STORY, Redeemer Center for Faith and Work) likewise have provided vibrant voices and realistic models integrating these themes. Some tangible examples of how this has worked out is the addition of David Brooks' lecture on character, Andy Crouch's chapter on institutional power, Amy Sherman's stewardship to classes this year, very creative digital examples from the conferences and Opus curriculum, and the availability of the faith and vocation library as research materials for senior reflection papers. Finally, as Student Government adviser, these conversations and readings have strengthened my influence at a significant time in the College's history.
Dr. Read Schuchardt
Associate Professor, Communication | 2015/16 faculty fellow
My fellowship experience has offered a variety of benefits: I’ve made good friends, I see more widely and deeply into certain classroom situations, and I’ve found ways of making myself more useful to my students. Opus helped me to make interdisciplinary connections with my colleagues in ways I would not have thought of on my own as well as a greater understanding of the need for professors to balance theory with practice for students entering the workforce upon graduation. It has shaped my thinking about how to be more useful to our students. I also have a new understanding of the link between professional success and spiritual discipline. Personally, the creative community of the fellowship and the travel and events have been the best part.
Dr. Nate Thom
Assistant professor, Biology | 2014/15 faculty fellow; 2015/16 Theology of Vocation project member
Being a fellow has had a tremendous impact on my experience as a faculty member. The collaborative and organic approach modeled and infused into the Opus events has allowed me to meet and work in depth with faculty members across campus that I would not normally interact with. A highlight of this was the Redeemer Center for Faith and Work conference in Manhattan, where 9 faculty from a variety of disciplines debriefed over meals regarding the speakers we heard each day. Opus intentionally fosters these types of interactions and my time has been richly deepened as a result. My understanding of calling and vocation was fairly shallow before I participated in the Opus Fellowship. To be candid, I only conceptualized calling in reference to work. Now I understand the broader meaning of the term, and am much better prepared to engage students on the topic of calling. I credit Opus for my development. I'm much more systematic and organized in the way that I mentor students about vocation as a result of my Opus fellowship.
Dr. Rob Ribbe
Director of Honey Rock; Assistant professor, Christian Formation & Ministry | 2015/16 faculty fellow
This year in Opus has been somewhat like having an ongoing multi-month conversation on the role of work, vocation, calling on our lives as Christians. I'm reading books, attending conferences, and participating in meetings that keep challenging my thinking in an area that hasn't been a focus of my attention over the years. It is significantly impacting the leadership development programs I oversee at HoneyRock that deeply effect nearly 200 students each year. This process has also generated an ongoing conversation on these topics with my entire staff.
Dr. Kim Sasser
Assistant professor, English | 2015/16 faculty fellow
As I mentioned at our first meeting, I applied to be an OPUS faculty fellow because I need(ed) to develop in my own learning of what vocation means. I need to know what vocation means for me, so I can, in turn, extend this learning to my students in ways that are meaningful for them. Even only halfway into the year, I am developing an orientation within the field -- aware of some of the major voices and concepts -- and, feel equipped to continue learning once the fellowship concludes. As a specific example of my having learned some of the central ideas, I love the notion that calling is communal, an idea to which I keep finding myself returning. Already, my department (English) is benefiting from the fellowships held by me and other department members. (And, we have two fellows participating next year, which speaks to the positive role the fellowships are having!) The other members of our faculty are looking to us for guidance in aspects like our entry-level class for majors and our senior seminar. I teach the entry-level class, and one of the key goals for that class is to direct these sophomores to thinking about vocation as it pertains to English majors. In sum, I already see ways that the learning/experiences garnered from my fellowship are directly beneficial for my department and our students.
Dr. Peter Walters
Professor, Applied Health Science | 2015/16 faculty fellow
The first thing that comes to my mind is the enhanced perspective of faith and vocation. I came from a tradition in which vocation (other than ministry) was primarily seen as a place "to be the light of Christ". Which is code, for being an evangelist. I'm beginning to understand it is much fuller- yes we can be the light of Christ, but also our work can be an example of excellence, integrity, beauty and goodness. In addition our work can be an avenue for creating social justice and a mechanism for human flourishing.
Dr. Noah Toly
Associate professor, Urban Studies and Politics & International Relations; Director of Urban Studies Program | 2014/15 faculty fellow; 2015/16 Theology of Vocation Project fellow
It’s in the context of my work with Opus over the last year-and-a-half that I’ve learned to emphasize that vocational discernment isn't a single event that happens sometime during a student's four years at Wheaton. The goal is not to have an answer to the "vocation question" by the time you graduate. The goal is a certain virtuosity in vocational discernment. The goal is to understand and be able to use a framework for vocational discernment that most students will return to over and over again for the rest of their lives. In my Opus Fellowship I've had the time to bring vocational discernment to the foreground through Civitas: A Program of Vocational Exploration and Discernment for Wheaton in Chicago and through our new Urban Leadership Studio. The most fulfilling aspect of being part of Opus is learning from faculty colleagues about how they see vocation, listening to our alumni about the challenges they face in living out their callings, and seeing more clearly the hopes and desires of our students.
Dr. David Setran
Price-Lebar Chair, Christian Formation & Ministry | 2015/16 faculty fellow
I have already learned a great deal about my own presuppositions related to vocation and I have been given new ideas about the way I can live out my own calling as a professor (what I teach, how I teach, how I interact with students). I re-worked our graduate integrative seminar to include six class periods related to vocational issues, and these are giving students a more purposeful and holistic posture toward vocational life as they prepare to graduate. It has also enhanced my own teaching of vocational issues in my College/Young Adult Ministry class (where we spend two weeks talking about vocation) and expanded my perspectives as I lead workshops on some of these issues around the country. As a side note, it has actually enhanced my appreciation for the institutional service aspects of my job, recognizing within these the opportunity to contribute to human and institutional flourishing through these tasks. Finally, I see these themes coming up repeatedly in my conversations with students, especially as I try to help them work through the process of vocational discernment. It has given me helpful "hooks" for these conversations and ways of articulating the kinds of questions they should be asking. I have learned so much by thinking about vocation together with people from English, Geology, Music, Communications, etc. I believe it creates a common language across disciplines that I think helps these issues find traction around the campus.
Mr. Greg Schreck
Associate professor, Art | 2015/16 faculty fellow
As a fellow I learned to more effectively challenge students to reflect on their callings; I'm helping them to look more broadly, and to clarify. And these ideas are already already affecting our departmental curriculum. I see our department becoming much more effective helping students define their vocations. I see students that have a sense of who they want to be and what they want to do. I see Opus opening doors for students and faculty alike. It solves practical problems while enabling students to properly refine expansive yet realistic visions for the future and to stay rooted in the Liberal Arts. So Opus helps the college stay true to its mission. It helps students realize the currency they have in their academic roundedness, and thoughtfulness, so enabling them to know their “genius” in their chosen field.
Dr. Amy Black
Professor, Political Science | 2014/15 faculty fellow
Even though my fellowship has ended, I continue to use the ideas generated during my time as a fellow to enrich my teaching and my student interactions. My participation in the project has broadened my understanding of calling and vocation through readings, conferences, and discussions with other fellows. The program has helped me develop a clearer vocabulary for talking about faith and vocation. I've always enjoyed talking with students about vocation and encouraging to think outside the box as they pray and discern God's will in their lives—the time as an Opus fellow encouraged me to continue this aspect of my advising and pointed me to new resources. I'll be teaching a first year seminar beginning next year, and I will be assigning readings I first encountered as an Opus fellow. Likely the most fulfilling aspect of the program was the opportunity to interact with faculty colleagues from a wide range of disciplines and learn from one another. At conferences, in gatherings as fellows, and in subsequent interaction with these colleagues, I have deepened “vocational friendships” and learned new ideas to enrich my teaching.
Dr. Heather Whitney
Assistant professor, Physics | 2015/16 faculty fellow
I have learned to be more mindful of vocation, and the dilemma it poses to students, in most everything I do and say with students. They are quite stressed by the thought of it. But with ongoing development of campus discussion we can make thinking through and preparing for future work a more positive and formative experience. I’ve so appreciated having access to a curated set of resources that I know are vetted and easy to share with my students.