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From the Colloquium – A Semester Wrap Up

The semester has come to an end here at Valparaiso University.  Grades are in and graduation is set for May 16 and 17.  The Postdoctoral Fellows will be donning cap and gowns to walk as members of the Valpo faculty.  They started the year with that rig at the beginning of the academic year for Postdoc convocation 2014Convocation; it seems fitting that we will all dress up once again as the undergraduates and law students process out into the world.  Some of our fellows are doing just that as well.  Our second-year fellows, Ian Clausen and Katherine Kennedy Steiner are leaving for positions at Villanova University and the University of Toronto.  Ian will start in the fall as an Arthur J. Ennis Fellow in the Augustine and Cultural Seminar Program.  Kate will be a Mellon Fellow at the Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto for 2015-2016.  One of our first year fellows, Jennifer Illig leaves us for Mount Saint Mary’s Monastery in Wrenthem, MA where she begins her new life as a postulant.

These fellows will begin a new phase in their lives. They leave the LFP and Linwood House and join the ranks of Former Fellows and live their vocations in different ways.  The colloquium readings for the second half of the spring semester were then fitting as we explored various manifestations (and definitions) of vocation, scholarly pursuits, and teaching within the context of higher education.  Typically, the readings and discussions at this point in the year remain rich, but they tend to move in more personal and practical directions.  The shared conversations between established faculty mentors and participants of the colloquium and the fellows get more to the meat of teaching, what it looks like in our classrooms, how we see ourselves at a particular university, and all the while contemplating the Future of Higher Education. (Yes, a lot goes on in the hour and a half we meet.)

Our readings largely focused on the nature of the humanities and vocation in both public and private/religiously affiliated institutions. We explored vocation and the growing adjunctification of the academy. We asked ourselves “how practices and perspectives from Christian faith and tradition contribute to [our] teaching and scholarship.”  With that we examined how we personally define vocation.  Is it a calling to a state in life or is it a call to meet the needs of the world in whatever we do?  Or both? We rounded out of semester with selections from Mark Schwehn and Dorothy Bass’ Leading Lives that Matter: What We Should Do and Who We Should Be. In particular, we read Bonnie Miller-McLemore’s “Generativity Crises of My Own,” Abigail Zuger’s “Defining a Doctor,” Martha Nussbaum’s “Interview by Bill Moyers,” and Mary Catherine Bateson’s “Composing a Life Story.”  We ended our spring colloquium with a rousing discussion of how we hope to find compromise and balance in our lives – how we will be dedicated teachers, present for our students, all the while committed to our scholarship, and yet be equally present for our friends and families.  What that looks like exactly is anyone’s guess!  The conversation and fellowship continued over a delightful pot-luck supper.  As spring finally came to our door, we look forward to what comes next. —  Posted by Mary Beth Fraser Connolly  Linwood spring 2014

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