The Voice: Winter 2003

The Voice

Dordt College awarded $2 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

by Jane Ver Steeg

Dordt College staff met during an intensive five-day workshop in May to brainstorm and help draw up the proposed $2 million grant that has now officially been approved by Lilly Endowment Inc. Faculty, staff, and students at Dordt College had reason to give thanks this fall, with the announcement that the college will be the recipient of a $2 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. Founded in 1937, the Endowment is an Indianapolis-based private foundation that supports the causes of religion, community development, and education.

Dordt College is one of thirty-nine colleges and universities in the country to receive such a grant this fall. Dordt’s grant will implement a “Programs in Christian Vocation” project, the cornerstone of which is a First-Term Seminar that will help new students develop greater clarity about the relationship between their faith and their vocational choices, and what it means to be “called” to lives of service. As part of the process, students will regularly pair up with a faculty mentor for discussions focusing on the relationship between their faith and the vocations for which they are training.

“Academic course work is crucial to anyone’s college education. However, training, mentoring, and communal reflection obviously are also important to the lives of most students, especially as they consider ‘God’s will for my life,” said Dr. John Kok, dean of the humanities division. Kok said the project is valuable because it addresses three significant transitions that occur in college students’ lives.

“The first is the move from home to college, when students struggle with identity, the role of others in their lives, and time management. During this time we hope students take responsibility for and ownership of their own faith commitments. The second is choice of major, when students wrestle with what their gifts and skills are and how these may be used meaningfully—where to find information and counsel, and the significance of this decision for the rest of their lives. The final transition is from college to life after college. Students struggle during this time with starting a career, relocating, prioritizing, finding a church home, and settling into marriage. This grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. will enhance Dordt’s capacity to help our students make these transitions—given that their college experience provides much of the context for their decisions regarding vocation.”

The grant is part of the third round of the Endowment’s initiative called “Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation.” The Endowment invited the colleges to reflect on their particular strengths, history, and mission in designing their proposals so that the programs would “fit” each institution well.

“Colleges that received grants in the earlier rounds are reporting very successful implementation of their plans—their students are eager to engage in theological reflection as they make choices about their future,” said Craig Dykstra, Endowment vice-president for religion. He added, “People in these schools are getting together with each other to exchange ideas and tell each other about the most promising aspects of their projects, so the ‘infrastructure’ of connections keeps building.”