William M. Sullivan
Oxford University Press, 2016
Collegeville Institute Seminars Participant
In a remarkable experiment lasting over a decade, a group of 88 independent campuses, ranging from comprehensive universities to intimate colleges, have demonstrated the value of an emerging educational agenda focused on meaning and purpose. These programs have shown that college can provide emerging adults with an understanding of themselves within today’s insecure and highly competitive world that enhances their ability to develop the “grit” needed to create meaningful lives. By focusing on the exploration of vocation and its theological foundations, the programs have produced remarkable outcomes in enhanced student engagement in the learning process and more effective entry into adult life.
Discernment of vocation provides for many students a synthetic and compelling focus for intellectual and practical exploration. Sustained by articulate reflection and grounded in communities of learning that include faculty as well as students, undergraduate life takes on new significance and urgency. Liberal Learning as a Quest for Purpose analyzes a series of successful efforts to reconfigure undergraduate education as a journey toward life purpose. Examining the experiences of students and faculty, William M. Sullivan reveals the concrete importance of this educational agenda for individual lives and particular campuses. By connecting the several dimensions of undergraduate experience through reflection on purpose, Sullivan demonstrates how these programs expanded the bandwidth of academic learning in energizing and exploratory ways. Within the larger, troubled environment of contemporary higher education, these pioneering efforts hold promise for a significant rethinking of the undergraduate experience to better serve students and society.