Sadd shares ‘Stories of Purposeful Life Work’
In “Voices of Vocation: Stories of Purposeful Life Work in Teaching, Mentoring and Leading,” edited by Tracy Wenger Sadd, this spiritual calling is explored in personal narratives by more than a dozen Elizabethtown College faculty and staff members.
Sadd, College chaplain, lecturer in religious studies and executive director of Purposeful Life Work and Ethical Leadership, utilized funds secured through a Lilly Endowment to bring these stories together.
“In the last 10 years, the College has received multiple grants from the Council of Independent Colleges Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education, funded by the Lilly Endowment,” Sadd said.
Lilly is a private philanthropic foundation that supports the causes of religion, education and community development via campus ministry organizations.
There is a book written about the development of Elizabethtown College as an institution, Sadd said, but “we didn’t have a book that could convey the many and diverse callings of our faculty and staff that make this place the kind of place others might be called to.”
Initially inspired by a New York Times article in which writer David Brooks compares a well-planned life to a summoned life, she wanted to explore how, even in a five-year-planned society, the best things in life are those to which we are called.
When Kathy Staib, assistant director of athletics, head softball coach and senior women’s administrator, arrived at Elizabethtown in 2002, it was certainly not a planned destination. Her time as a softball player was waning, but she didn’t want it to stop, she said. “It was such a part of who I am.”
But an E-town coach who “was a mentor before I knew what a mentor was” showed Staib she could still be integral to the game by transitioning from player to coach. “Having coached softball at the youth, recreational level and at high school level I always knew the game would be part of my life,” she shared in her chapter “Coaching: Vocation, Life Calling, and Purposeful Life Work.”
She said she came to realize that her attraction to softball was not necessarily about the game or about winning. “The sport is very much like life—troubleshooting, problem solving, ups and downs. … These are all things I knew, but when I put them down in a story, it came to life,” she said. “I love being around the women and teaching them life skills, how you develop, mature and grow. You learn because you fail. You face the challenge and overcome.”
For Kurt DeGoede, it was the analysis of a challenge that nudged him toward his calling. As an engineer with Ford Motor Co., he faced a fork along his career path. One turn took him toward management, the other toward engineering. “I didn’t want to be a manager,” he said. “I wanted to do things with a purpose in the context of where I can make a difference.”
After continuing his education, DeGoede landed at Elizabethtown as an engineering and physics professor and ABET program coordinator. “I immediately felt at home in this place that championed “Educate for Service” and the values of peace, simplicity, non-violence, human dignity and social justice,” he noted in his chapter “Why?,” inspired by the “five whys” of former executive vice president of Toyota Motor Co.
“What are my five whys in discovering purpose in an academic pursuit?” he thought.
By following his calling, DeGoede said, he’s been able to focus his research and student work around multidisciplinary biomechanics, clinical rehabilitation tools and social enterprise projects—all of which have made a significant difference, locally and worldwide.
Tamera Humbert was very honored to be asked to write a chapter for Sadd’s book, she said. “I was pleased that there were a wide variety of faculty and staff (members) to participate in this project,” said the associate professor, department chair and program director in the Occupational Therapy Department. “I have a longstanding relationship with Tracy. I have watched her as she fosters inclusiveness and respect through faculty and staff retreats, conversation and dialogue. I’ve been to events and participated and appreciate her sensitivity to all.”
With that inclusiveness in mind, Humbert’s chapter, “Meaning Therapeutic Relationships: A Reflection of Work Matters,” concentrated on the wholeness of a being, she said. “In the academic world we normally don’t cross between personal and professional, especially in areas of scholarly research. You try to go into research without bias.” In OT practice, however, wholeness is about integrating – professional, personal, public, private, spoken and unspoken lives. In general, for occupational therapists, lines are often blurry, with no distinct boundaries.”
Humbert pointed out that she spends a lot of time looking at how we make meaning of things—utilizing research that is qualitative, transformative, autoethnographic and phenomenological. “What does it mean to be a … .”
Each story, just as those in the book, is personal.
As “Voices of Vocation” was heading to print, the idea of personal and individual really spoke to Sadd, and it dawned on her that not all voices are vocal. “They can take on a shape of something that is emerging for a particular person,” she said.
At a faculty-staff retreat, Amy Shorner-Johnson, assistant chaplain and assistant director of religious life, had asked participants to use materials, at hand, to create a shape that was meaningful to them, and, as the images were happening, Sadd thought instantly that they’d need to become part of the book.
“I was amazed at the things that came from that,” Sadd said.
Interspersed among the 16 chapters and the forward, written by Sadd, are colorful stars and spirals, swirls, spots and splashes, all saying so much about vocation … in yet another voice.