Faculty and Staff Explore the Power of Vocation and Its Impact on Students in College and Beyond

Saint Peter’s faculty and staff recently received the opportunity to explore the power of vocation and how it makes a positive difference in the lives of students at a presentation given by Tim Clydesdale, Ph.D., professor of sociology at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ).

Dr. Clydesdale’s presentation about his book, The Purposeful Graduate: Why Colleges Must Talk to Students about Vocation, was the first project funded by the University’s NetVUE Program Development Award. The award supports Saint Peter’s initiative to help students engage more directly in their own personal development through vocation to identify a sense of meaning in their lives.

During his presentation, Dr. Clydesdale discussed his discoveries from his study on the Lilly Endowment, a multi-billion dollar NetVUE initiative that funded purposeful exploration programs for 88 college campuses with a focus on three priorities: community development, education and religion.

“To nurture purpose in graduates is to ask campuses to intentionally and systematically implement their existing pledges to produce purposeful, globally-engaged students,” said Dr. Clydesdale.  “To support churches in America, we need to get the idea of vocation out there in the minds of young people.”

Through many panel interviews and surveys, Dr. Clydesdale recalled seeing firsthand the broad range of participating campuses and their differing implementations of their purposeful exploration programs. While the approaches often differed, Dr. Clydesdale found they all had one thing in common: they all experienced positive impacts such as increased retention, higher graduation rates, an increase in pro-vocational attitudes of students and an increase in student resilience following graduation.

“These students demonstrated how they really had lives of purpose, which really sold me on the positive effects of these programs,” added Dr. Clydesdale.

Dr. Clydesdale also noted that the positive results of the programs didn’t just stop with the undergraduates — it also brought faculty and staff closer together and better-equipped graduates to succeed in life. After interviewing alumni a year after they graduated, he discovered they were more likely to seek out advice from mentors, compared themselves less to their peers, demonstrated more resilience and balance and had more realistic expectations about their futures.

“College is about purposeful graduates,” he emphasized. “Purposeful, productive and resilient graduates — that is what college is about.”