Wabash College

Callings: This program helps students seek lives of purpose and fulfillment. Callings-sponsored events aim to enrich our understanding of identity and purpose.

Quests and Questions: Quests and Questions is a student-led and driven organization commited to discerning Callings and it seeks to discover enriching, purpose driven lives through a peer mediated mentor network.  


  • Audience: Young men ages 18-22; reaching out to all 900 undergraduates. 
  • When: The various aspects of the Callings program are ongoing throughout the year, with internships taking place over the summer.  Quests and Questions occurs throughout the year.
  • Approximate Number of Participants: 30-45 students and faculty/staff. The Quests and Questions group has about 4-6 students, while our faculty-staff reading group has drawn about 15-20 per semester.
  • Focus of Vocational Program:  The Callings program brings speakers to campus to reflect on their vocational journeys; supports non-profit summer internships that enable students to explore potential callings, as well as short-term externships in both for-profit and non-profit settings; Quests and Questions, a student run group, focuses on vocation, meaning, and purpose in education and future employment prospects; has taken students on Quests to several locations in southern Indiana and Detroit designed to prod thinking about vocation; conducts and faculty-staff reading group that explores our vocation in higher education.

Funding and Operations

Wabash hopes to find ways to sustain its reflection programs.

  • External Support: NetVUE Program Development Grant, 2013-14.
  • Operations: Our program development grant of $46,000 will end up supporting the program for approximately 27 months. We are searching for support moving forward and may need to scale back somewhat.


Callings, Exploring Vocational Identity and Purpose, is a program focused on Wabash College’s undergraduate male student population that aims to help students explore the concept of vocation or calling in light of their interests, gifts, passions, and future plans. We desire to help students think of their lives—educationally, occupationally, spiritually, and beyond—in terms of meaning, purpose, service, and integrity. We are convinced that students who can begin to incorporate these “big question” issues into their lives will be able to move beyond narrow careerist mindsets and self-serving interests and onto vocational paths that are much richer, fuller, and life-giving. As far as the impact of Callings, in our small college context, we have lots of word-of-mouth evidence that suggests a positive impact in helping students expand their horizons. Our numbers have been fairly limited, but the reception on campus among both students and faculty/staff has been very positive. 


Our late colleague, Bill Placher, was involved in the Lilly Endowment–funded Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation (PTEV), and edited a book in support of PTEV that has been widely used, Callings: Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation (2005). After Bill’s death in late 2008, efforts along these lines languished for a time until we decided to become involved in the Network on Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE), effectively the successor program to PTEV that aimed for a broader constituency. We established our program, Callings: Exploring Vocational Identity and Purpose, in late 2011 and 2012, then received a NetVUE program development grant for 2013 and 2014 that enabled us to further develop and expand it.  The program has been running for 3 years.

Recommended Resources

Wabash Calling website: http://www.wabash.edu/careers/students/callings

NetVUE conferences, both national and regional, have been very valuable sources of ideas. Discussions with leaders of vocation programs at a number of schools have also helped generate ideas. We also sought to read widely in the areas of vocation and calling, higher education, young men and the challenges they face, career counsel and planning, and more.

Two books (among many) have been helpful:

  • Mark R. Schwehn and Dorothy C. Bass, eds., Leading Lives that Matter: What We Should Do and Who We Should Be (2006);
  • Bill Placher, Callings: Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation (2005).


Callings received the NetVUE Program Development Grant, 2013-14.  Operationally, the program development grant of $46,000 will end up supporting the program for approximately 27 months. We are searching for support moving forward and may need to scale back somewhat.


Our assessment has been qualitative, anecdotal, and word-of-mouth, which seems to work pretty well on our small campus, which is highly relational and teaching focused. What we haven’t done is conduct any quantitative assessments.