The Initiative for Vocational Inquiry (IVI) embraces vocational exploration as a critical element of an education that forms individual persons in community to cultivate practices for the common good. IVI is a set of interlocking programs that engage Millsaps students with the Jackson community and the wider world. It consists of four distinct programs: a set of faculty-led courses in Community Engaged Learning (CEL); an academic minor in Vocation, Ethics, and Society (VESO); the Wellspring living and learning community; and the Center for Career Education. These interdependent programs are part of what makes Millsaps a vibrant place to live and learn.
Kelsey Stone at Echo Park United Methodist Church
Kelsey Stone at Echo Park United Methodist Church: Kelsey was an Urban Intern at Echo Park United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, CA. Over the summer in 2017, they developed a curriculum for Echo Park UMC's Peace Camp - a week long day camp modeled after another local UMC congregation's month long Peace Program. Kelsey worked with some basic curriculum provided by that other church, but also adapted and created their own focus and theme in approaching issues such as nonviolence communication and conflict resolution. Kelsey teamed up with local organizations to provide workshops for the kids, as well as advertise and spread word about the Peace Camp. When the Peace Camp occurred during the first week of August, Kelsey served as the yoga & meditation instructor, as well as a teacher in the camp.
Kelsey Stone at Human Rights Campaign
Sarah Altman at Operation Shoestring: Sarah’s internship with students at Operation Shoestring was also in fulfillment of her Ford Fellowship with her mentor, Dr. Rachel Heard. This fellowship was intended to teach Sarah how to teach piano on all levels, and the VESO internship gave her the students from the community to practice the skills she had gained. She held a weekly group piano class for 6 students. They learned many of the basics of music and of piano playing, in addition to creating a community of students interested in pursuing music. In doing so, Sarah discovered the aspects of teaching that she was not willing to sacrifice--such as that engagement with the practicing and music-making process is far superior to perfectionism. She hopes that this experience will help inform future VESO and other community-engaged students, as well as future piano pedagogy students.
Sarah Altman at Millsaps College
Sarah’s internship helped her decide whether to pursue a career as a professor of elementary education. She worked with her mentor, Dr. Julie Rust, on a research project to present at an academic conference in St. Louis in the fall of 2017. In addition, she sought other perspectives in this field of study from around the city and the state. She conducted interviews with literacy education professors from around the nation. She also began research with a former community partner and Dr. Rust for publication about a community engaged project and how to better prepare preservice teachers for disassembling and reassembling their identities in response to difficult contexts. These many projects occurring simultaneously alludes to a well-known and difficult to master aspect of professor life: lots of irons in the fire.
The interdisciplinary minor in Vocation, Ethics, and Society (VESO) helps students explore their intended careers and round out their education by integrating coursework from many disciplines with hands-on experiences. VESO minors take a gateway course (Work, Ethics, and Society), engage in multidisciplinary coursework, complete two internships with accompanying discussion courses, and construct a portfolio explaining the development of their thought and gathering documents to take with them post-graduation. VESO minors may also apply for funding for an Exploration Trip to go to a location or attend an event beyond campus that will contribute to their course of study. Here are a few examples of internships and exploration trips VESO students have taken in the past few years.
Kelsey Stone: “I had the opportunity to travel to New York and Boston for my VESO exploration trip. Since I’m exploring graduate school in religious studies as a possibility after I graduate, I engaged in inter-religious dialogue at a graduate school I visited. In Boston, I attended the American Academy of Religion conference (AAR). There, I attended panels and presentations on topics that mattered to me vocationally, such as disability rights and religion, as well as panels centered on “careers outside of the academy.” The scholars and other attendees I interacted with were particularly gracious to me, and I was able brainstorm with them ways to nurture and grow these interests and desires in creative ways for the next step in my vocational journey. My trip reiterated to me even more how there are so many ways to live a life – and how I can bring my full self to almost any “job,” if I am intentional and open about this pursuit. I am now confident in my ability to “live into” the questions of how to pursue meaningful purpose and action while dedicating myself to a community-minded life.”
Michala Sullivan (2015): "Prior to attending Millsaps I had the opportunity to serve with the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). It set me on a path of living an intentional and meaningful life, but it wasn't until I began my minor ... that I fully understood what taking a risk like AmeriCorps had done for me. Having the time to question and investigate what vocational discernment is gave me a foundation for understanding my purpose in life, as well as that of others that I have met along the way. Taking a pilgrimage back to Colorado, where I first began my AmeriCorps journey, was humbling and eye opening. To be able to retrace my steps from the time I began there to where I am today 6 years later gave purpose to these years, and also hope and motivation to continue to live an active and community-centered life."
Merrit Corrigan (2015): "E.B. White once wrote: 'New York is to the nation what the white[-painted] church [building] is to the village -- the visible symbol of aspiration and faith, the white plume saying the way is up.' As I walked the steps White once took in his beloved city, I felt that overwhelming optimism and sense of beauty in humanity that White also noted. Surrounded by people but alone in my thoughts, I felt the depth of my dreams and power in knowing that those around me were there to realize their own. New York is a city of risk-takers and creatives, of millions of people sharing the same sidewalks but walking very different paths. I felt a sense of freedom with each step in my urban pilgrimage, thinking about who has stood there before me and where my next turn might be. I recited no prayer nor participated in any religious ritual, but New York instilled a renewed sense of guidance and purpose for me, 'the sense of belonging to something unique, cosmopolitan, mighty and unparalleled."