Students Discern Passions, Explore Life’s Calling Through VITAS Program
Nearly 100 students, guests and mentors drawn from SLU faculty and staff members gathered
April 27 to cap off the students’ semester-long vocational discernment program at
Busch Student Center. The program, Vocational Inquiry Through Advocacy and Service
(VITAS), received $25,000 in support from the NetVUE and the Lilly Foundations. Ten
mentors, representing a variety of campus areas, worked with students on professional
development activities, read books about vocation in higher education and discussed
the concept of discernment with students. The program's tagline was “Where your greatest
passions meet the world's greatest needs," a phrase coined by theologian Frederick
At the closing ceremony, students kept Buechner’s words in mind in thinking about
their own passions and paths forward, even if they were still reflecting on their
"VITAS has allowed me to remove some of the harsh pressure the world places on students
and consider the idea that my vocation I choose immediately post-graduation doesn’t
define me for the remainder of my life if I don’t want it to,” senior Brenna Sullivan
As part of the program, Tim Clydesdale, Ph.D., the author of The Purposeful Graduate:
Why Colleges Must Talk to Students about Vocation, visited SLU and spoke to over 100
faculty and staff about the importance of vocational discernment among undergraduate
Following Clydesdale’s visit, in the spring, 45 students took part in community service
and advocacy efforts through VITAS. The spring also included a series of small group
discussions led by faculty and staff mentors, one-on-one mentoring meetings and off-campus
activities. At the end of the program, students were invited to write an essay reflecting
on their VITAS experiences.
Senior Brian Dugan said that taking part in the program allowed him to think about
what his vocation encompassed.
“My vocation has something to do with writing and the honest pursuit of truth, that
much I know,” Dugan said. “What type of writing, or to what extent I write, well,
those threads on my map are still a bit tangled. Through the VITAS model, I’ve discovered
my own greatest passion."
At the ceremony, each student received a framed letter signed by University President
Fred Pestello, Ph.D., congratulating them for taking the time to reflect upon their
life's calling and completing the VITAS program.
Data collected from the students on their experiences and reflections on the vocational
discernment process will be made available to the University community in the early