Northwestern receives renewal grant from Lilly Endowment

Northwestern College has received a renewal grant of $499,800 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to build upon its Vocare: Find Your Place project. Vocare, which seeks to help prepare a new generation of leaders for church and society by helping Northwestern students discover and then commit to their calling, was begun in 2003 with a $2 million gift from the Lilly Endowment.

“We are very pleased with the news our application for extended funding from the Lilly Endowment was approved,” says Dr. Bruce Murphy, Northwestern’s president. “The additional funds will enable us to continue and strengthen our efforts to help students discern their place in God’s world. We are planning to provide new opportunities in leadership development, enhance advising, and expand local and global options for vocational exploration.”

Northwestern’s renewal grant is one of 30 announced in May by the Lilly Endowment to private, church-related liberal arts colleges and universities across the country that earlier had received grants from the endowment’s Programs for Theological Exploration of Vocation. Since the first grant in 1999, the Lilly Endowment has invested more than $217 million into the program and assisted 88 schools in 29 states.

“This initiative opened with three major aims: to encourage young people to explore Christian ministry as their possible life’s work, to help all students draw on the wisdom of their faith traditions in making career choices, and to enhance the capacity of the schools’ faculties and staffs to teach and mentor students in these areas,” says Craig Dykstra, the Lilly Endowment’s senior vice president for religion.

“What these schools have accomplished—in bringing a sense of vocation to young people’s career choices—has been phenomenal,” says Dykstra. “We have heard from students, faculty, staff, alumni and even parents about the effectiveness of these college programs in encouraging young people to engage in vocational reflection. They are excited about it.”

The renewal grants come at a time when the campus programs are flourishing but also at a point when the original grant funds are being depleted. To allow the colleges and universities to continue their work and to weave their programs into an ongoing fabric of the schools’ offerings, the endowment offers these renewal grants, which are intended to cover up to half of the costs of their programs for up to an additional three years.

Since its inception, Northwestern’s Vocare project has been under the leadership of Dr. Keith Anderson, dean of spiritual formation and vocation. A new department, the Center for Spiritual Formation and Vocation, was formed to bring together the Lilly Grant office, campus ministry, service learning and career development. Vocare’s over 30 initiatives included establishing more study abroad experiences, helping students explore their potential for ministry leadership, supporting numerous projects involving worship and the arts, providing multicultural training and hiring a full-time career counselor.

“Our goal was to transform the campus culture and create an environment of hospitality for spirituality and vocation,” says Anderson. “The renewal grant allows us to take the next step in infusing a sense of vocation into Northwestern’s ethos.”

Plans call for a greater integration of vocational themes into curriculum and advising, expansion of a program that places ministry interns in churches, development of new resources about vocation for parents and peers, and establishment of a three-year experience for emerging leaders who are students of color.