Beginning this July, Hope College will broaden its role as a national leader in the newly-emerging field of vocational exploration.

Hope has been asked by the Washington, D.C.-based Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) to host the new “Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) Scholarly Resources Project.” This project is a national effort to produce materials for use by colleges and universities across the country seeking to help students explore questions of meaning and purpose as they prepare for life and career.

The college’s selection reflects the success and impact of the CrossRoads Project, a Hope program that began nine years ago to enhance emphasis at the college on “Thinking Theologically About Career, Calling, and Life.”  The new “NetVUE Scholarly Resources Project” will be directed by Dr. David Cunningham, who is the founding director of CrossRoads as well as a professor of religion at Hope.  Cunningham has been active nationally in discussions related to the development of programs on vocational discernment, including playing a leadership role in establishing the larger NetVUE program of which the new project is a part.

“CIC is delighted to have the scholarly expertise of David Cunningham guiding this project,” said CIC president Richard Ekman.  “We also are pleased that Hope College will host this initiative.” 

The NetVUE Scholarly Resources Project is designed to facilitate the creation of new written materials to be used by both faculty and students in achieving a better understanding of vocational exploration.  Over the next four years, Cunningham will coordinate the work of three separate groups of scholars, each of which will meet on three separate occasions over the course of about one year.  These scholarly seminars will produce work on the teaching of vocational exploration, on the integration of vocation across diverse fields of study, and on the role of vocation in a multi-religious world.

The project will be administered by CIC, with funding from a grant by Lilly Endowment Inc.  Office space and other support will be provided by Hope College. 

The CrossRoads Project also will continue under Cunningham’s leadership. The college’s CrossRoads Project began in 2003, when Hope was among the 88 colleges nationwide that were awarded $2 million grants by the Lilly Endowment Inc. to develop what it called “Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation.”  The program was extended in 2008 through an additional $500,000 matching grant.  CrossRoads develops its own initiatives focused on vocation and works with other Hope departments to help them integrate vocational discernment into their programs.

The CrossRoads Project has been highly praised by the Lilly Endowment and has already played a leadership role among institutions that support and develop programs on vocational discernment.  In 2008, CIC asked Cunningham to help develop NetVUE, an initiative funded through an initial grant to CIC from the Lilly Endowment Inc.  He planned and directed the group’s first conference, which took place in 2009 in Indianapolis and was attended by teams from nearly 100 institutions.  Today, some 167 institutions nationwide are members of NetVUE.