Vocation Voices

Connie Barclay

Connie Barclay

During the late 1960s and early ’70s when I was experiencing college, life for women as we knew it was beginning to change. Upon entering my freshman year at a small Lutheran liberal arts college, I was stunned to see 16 pages of rules for women in the student handbook and one page for men! But by the next year, rules about dorm hours and dress codes were relaxed. Women began to have a voice in their futures, but it still was very definitely a man’s world.

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Nancy Barry

Nancy Barry

Several years ago, a writer enrolled in a summer workshop I was teaching asked me after an intense week of writing, reading, and discussion of our own nonfiction work:
“So do you consider yourself more a writer, or a teacher of writing?”
It was one of those questions that pulls you up short, inside your head, and makes you think with great clarity about the way you define yourself and your work. At first, I squirmed a bit with the question, because I didn’t like such a strict division between what I see as my creative activity as a writer and the more “school-sponsored” work of teaching writing at Luther College. But as I talked through my response, I realized that much of my adult life has been spent trying to forge a path between these two realms: being a writer, someone who works very self-consciously with how and why language on the page impacts readers; and a writing teacher, a person who labors just as self-consciously to help other writers create that impact with their own words.

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Mike Blair

Mike Blair

Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice. —Proverbs 1:20
And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” —Matthew 3:17

Some of the most remarkable features of Luther’s campus are easy to miss if you are always in a hurry to get from one place to the next. There are two stone circles: the older one is just east of Koren; the newer one is in front of Jenson-Noble Hall of Music. These stone circles provide good gathering places for class discussions and groups of friends. The stone circles are also good places for solitude, fostering reflection and contemplation.

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Wilfred Bunge

Wilfred F. Bunge

On the surface, much of the substance of our lives is due to happenstance. We are born and grow up in particular places at particular times. The experiences of those times and places motivate our choices in ways not especially obvious to us at the time. We meet people we admire and some of them are doing things with their lives that attract our attention and interest. That leads to choices for education and relationships that shape the course of our lives. I emphasize the word choice in this, since I do not want to give the impression that situation and experience determine the direction of our lives. Rather they provide the context within which options occur to us.

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Ruth Caldwell

Ruth Caldwell

Three vignettes to begin:
1) I am a sophomore in college, babysitting my history professor’s three little children. At 11:00 p.m. the two-year-old wakes up crying. I come into her room and try to comfort her, but she keeps murmuring “Dumb Jude.” My mind races: who is Jude, and why is he dumb? A nightmare? A frantic sorting operation in my head comes up with the translation: “some juice.” I hug her and get some. All becomes quiet.
2) Flash forward to a department store in Japan. I am there with my own little girl, who has torn her coat, and I need to repair it.

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Wanda Deifelt

Wanda Deifelt

There are three things I truly enjoy: interesting people, great conversation, and a good cup of fair trade coffee. Luther’s Sense of Vocation, through its Kaffeepause (coffee break, in Norwegian) allowed me to bring them all together. During the last academic year, I advertised in class that I would be available to talk to students about issues that interested them and were ultimately related to our common calling to be full human beings: vocation.

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Philip Freeman

Philip Freeman

There’s a story I’d like to tell you about my choice to become a classics professor. In that story I sit as a child at my father’s knee listening to tales of Greek gods and heroes, practice conjugating Latin verbs at the dinner table, and dream of the day I could travel to Greece and Rome to see the fabled lands of Plato and Caesar. I’d like to tell that story, but the truth is very different.

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Tanya Gertz

Tanya Gertz

“Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers.” —Rainer Maria Rilke
My journey is a story less about knowing the right answers and more about asking faithful questions. I see vocation as something woven through the details, which helped me to make choices and develop my sense of self along the way.

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Carol Gilbertson

Carol Gilbertson

Finding a vocation is an ongoing quest rather than a single discovery. After I took a vocational test in high school, a career counselor told me that I could do almost anything except be a doctor (I left angry and immediately decided to plan for medical school). Though I grew up in a parsonage, I knew that as a woman I could not be a pastor, and I was painfully aware that my father always talked about getting a “good man” to serve a neighboring parish. When I was a first-year college student—my family had one child in each class at Augustana–Sioux Falls—my three older brothers joked that I should go to cosmetology school (to our smart-aleck college minds, that was a woman’s lowest vocational choice, except perhaps for stocking shelves or cleaning latrines).

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Sue Halverson

Sue Halverson

Wow, this thing called life. What an amazing journey. And probably the single most important thing I have learned along the way? This journey does not end when you hit the so called “milestones” in life: graduating from high school, finding your significant other, accepting that once in a lifetime employment opportunity….

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Jane Hawley

Jane Hawley

My passion for movement began near a stream. This stream ran beneath an old wooden bridge, on a dirt road a quarter-mile from my farm home, three miles north of Vail, Iowa. My improvised movement left patterns and pathways along the smooth, dry, dirt floor of this outdoor studio for many summer moons. The birds, bees, and plowing tractors became my composers, while the wind accented my breath, and the seldom passing cars on the nearby gravel road initiated moments of surprised momentum. Jumping into the ditch to hide among the tall grasses allowed my confidence to build before a familiar and most forgiving audience of systems and creatures within this natural theatre.

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Laurie Iudin-Nelson

Laurie Iudin-Nelson

When I think of vocation, I think of many things: an inner sense of call; my spiritual beliefs; the lifelong influence of family, teachers, coaches, mentors and friends; and the willingness to try new things and jump headfirst into the unknown. All of these elements have come together in my own life and have given me a vocation in a field that I never would have predicted when I entered college.

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Julie Jensen

Julie Jensen

When I left for college, I remember my always-pragmatic dad saying, “Major in whatever you want, as long as you get a job when you are done, because in four years you’re off the payroll, kid.” In truth, I was probably more intentional about what I didn’t pick for a major in college than what I did pick—math and computer science. I intentionally explored English, biology, and physics in my first two years and found none of them were for me. I didn’t really decide I wanted to be a math major. I had simply always taken math in school, and I couldn’t imagine that changing in college, so I figured I’d just take a math class a semester—which is basically what it takes for a major.

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Mark Johns

Mark Johns

Despite what your geometry teacher told you, parallel lines sometimes can intersect far off in the distance. Two parallel paths of my life converged in the autumn of 1999 when I began my career at Luther College. One of those paths was a commitment to God and the Church that had called me into the ordained ministry more than two decades earlier. A second path was a lifelong fascination with radio, television, and electronics which had begun as a hobby and turned into a profession.

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Ruth Kath

Ruth Kath

Where on earth did that come from? I quizzed my father. It was Christmastime during my first year as a graduate student in German, and without warning, my decidedly monolingual father had begun to sing “O Tannenbaum.” Though the melody was somewhat off-key, his German pronunciation was perfect. “Didn’t I ever tell you?” he answered. “Your grandmother was a German instructor at Tulane University in the ’40s.” What?

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Jeanie Lovell

Jeanie Lovell

Who’d have guessed it? Who would have guessed that I’d be raising money for a private liberal arts college affiliated with the ELCA? I sure didn’t. But in hindsight, it makes perfect sense and really feels like my calling.

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Jim Martin-Schramm

Jim Martin-Schramm

“I always thought you’d make a better teacher than a preacher. You’re too rough around the edges to be a pastor.” These are the only words I can ever recall my father sharing with me about vocational discernment! He made this remark after I told him I was applying to doctoral programs in Christian ethics. I had been serving an inner-city congregation as a parish pastor for three years, but I felt a calling to church-related higher education.

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LuAnn Meeker-Gast

Luann Meeker-Gast

I like to watch birds. I watch for birds by observing feeders in our backyard, by looking out my window during my drive to work each day, and by making special trips to places just to look for birds. It would be silly to try to watch birds by exclusively sitting in a chair in my living room memorizing the bird book. It would be silly to watch birds by exclusively laying in bed at night thinking about all the places I could go to see birds. It would be silly to watch birds by stomping through the woods in my big hiking boots calling “Here, birdie, birdie!”

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Brad Miller

Brad Miller

I have been hooked on computing since the spring of 1979. It started the day our high school got an Apple II computer. I taught myself to program by modifying the Lemonade Stand game that came with the computer. The object of the game was to learn about running a small business by deciding how much lemonade to make on any given day. Your sales were influenced by the weather and various other factors. If you made too little lemonade and had good weather you missed sales. If you made too much lemonade and had bad weather the lemonade went to waste. The modification I made almost guaranteed that player one would win because I increased the probability that it would rain on player two.

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Mark Muggli

Mark Z. Muggli

Until I was 22, I intended to spend my adult life in a Benedictine monastery on the western North Dakota prairies. At 22 I became a teacher, then a graduate student; at 27 I became a husband, then had two children; I am now edging towards retirement after nearly 30 years at a college in the northeastern Iowa bluff country. With no Benedictine monastery anywhere in sight.

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Jayme Nelson

Jayme Nelson

“For now we see as through a glass darkly, but then face-to-face. Now we know in part, but then shall we know even as also we are known.” —1 Corinthians 13:12
When I was a first year student at Luther College in 1983, I took an aptitude test at Career Planning. I remember walking out of the Centennial Union thinking about the results. While I don’t recall the exact specifics, the gist of the results was that my gifts did not lie in working with people, but with data or numbers or computers. Twenty-three years later I have devoted my life to working with people, both with students and patients.

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Doris Patterson

Doris Patterson

My Dad quoted a lot of good old sayings. I have two brothers and three sisters, and we all grew up hearing them. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” “If you don’t need it, it’s expensive at half the price.” “A stitch in time saves nine.” “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” I tell people that I am one of the few at Luther who has her ducks in a row! I have used a few others to help describe my journey to Luther College.

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Todd Pedlar

Todd Pedlar

In the not-too-distant past, the word vocation was more commonly used in a manner nearer to its original sense of “calling” than it often is today. I am grateful that at Luther College, we are exploring together this word and its meaning for us as an academic community. One of the exciting things about our sharing a common academic calling (as we at Luther do) is that as we help our students to find their own giftedness and ultimately their own vocations, we, too, have the chance to refine our own ideas of vocation in conversation with one another. This special part of our common academic task has the potential to greatly enrich our work together.

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Jim Rhodes

Jim Rhodes

The search for life work often follows unexpected routes. Doors open and new opportunities appear. Yet sometimes one is lucky enough to open a door early and have it be the one that sustains a lifelong commitment that brings great personal reward and satisfaction.

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Uwe Rudolf

Uwe Rudolf

From the time I first saw the skyscrapers of New York as a five-year-old German immigrant, my dream was to become an architect. When my cub scout “den” arranged a visit to the local paper in Cincinnati, Ohio, where my family settled, we were interviewed and asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. I am quoted as saying that “I want to make drawings for people’s houses.”

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