Tim Clydesdale’s The Purposeful Graduate: Why Colleges Must Talk to Students About Vocation outlines the results of a multiple campus initiative that encouraged students to critically examine how they might lead meaningful lives. The Lilly Endowment initially supported the initiative. When the Lilly funds came to an end, many campuses continued supporting these so-called pro-exploration programs, encouraged by the enthusiasm of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. This initiative and related programs explored the idea of vocation, defined not as a person’s main employment or occupation, but rather as a sense of purpose that gives meaning to their lives.
The term pro-exploration undoubtedly has religious connotations, a fact that is acknowledged early in the text. The initial Lilly funding targeted institutions with a religious affiliation in keeping with the mission and history of the Lilly Endowment. However, Clydesdale is careful to note that all students possess a vocational identity regardless of their religious identity. In an era
of workforce development, where vocational training correlates with specific skill sets and employment opportunities, the idea of exploring vocation as an individual passion seems to be a luxury. Yet the book positions pro-exploration programs as a nod to the original purpose of higher education: educating globally knowledgeable, capable, and responsive citizens. This goal is too often not realized and pro-exploration programs provide an active path towards this end.