The Curricular Component
The curricular component of the Pepperdine Voyage called for a strategy that challenged Seaver College undergraduates on the issue of vocation mainly in the first two years they spent at Pepperdine. That challenge took different forms as these students progressed from their first year to their sophomore year. The descriptions that follow outline the activities for each of these years.
FIRST YEAR PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS NEW STUDENT ORIENTATION, FIRST YEAR SEMINARS AND PARENT'S WEEKEND
The Pepperdine Voyage introduced first year students to the “theological exploration of vocation” by utilizing existing programs designed specifically for first year students—New Student Orientation (NSO) and First Year Seminars.
Student Readings. The heart of the first year program, continued through The Center for Faith and Learning, revolves around readings that all students should complete during the summer prior to their first year. These readings, sent to all first year students online during the summer months, are journal articles by Pepperdine faculty and administration. First year seminar professors may choose to have their students read chapters from Gordon Smith's Courage and Calling or another reading on vocation as well.
Student Writing. Each new first year student writes a reflection paper on these readings during the summer months, exploring the questions this material raises for the theme of vocation and for the student’s own life’s journey.
When these students assemble for their first Pepperdine experience- NSO -they share these reflections with one another in small groups. Once school begins in the fall, first year seminar professors who wish to participate in this project read the papers their students have written. They then lead the students in further exploration both of the readings and of the students’ own written reﬂections on those readings, asking at every step along the way about the vocational implications of this material.
One of the objectives of this exercise is to encourage each student to pay close attention to his or her own gifts and interests and to listen to his or her own heart as he or she thinks seriously about the question of vocation.
In addition, first year seminar faculty could apply for funding to use for vocation-oriented activities such as excursions to the Museum of Tolerance or service projects.
Peer Leaders. As a new element under the sustaining grant, we recruited Peer Leaders in the spring to serve new students for the duration of the fall semester through the Orientation Leader selection process. Peer Leaders were designated for each First Year Seminar class and were spiritually mature and academically talented juniors or seniors who served as volunteers. Peer Leaders organized and participated in four kinds of activities: Step Forward Day, vocation discussions, educational workshops/excursions, and social activities. By engaging the questions of calling and vocation with peers, new students and peer leaders built a theological framework through which to understand their lives and vocation. This ultimately informed their personal development.
Parent Lectures. We also invited Pepperdine alumni, faculty or staff who can speak of vocation in meaningful ways to address the parents at NSO and Parents’ Weekend on why their children should consider a faith-based vocation.
Parent Reflections. These sessions with Pepperdine parents provided a marvelous opportunity to explore with them the meaning and value of a liberal arts education. Indeed, we would hope that parents would come to see, as a result of this process, that the kind of liberal arts education that Pepperdine provides will prepare their children for a meaningful vocation, regardless of the majors or the careers that their children might choose.
SOPHOMORE COMPONENT PUTS FOCUS ON INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMS
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Pepperdine operates five year-round overseas programs for Seaver College students, augmented by more than a dozen shorter-term programs in a variety of locations throughout the world. The five year-round programs—the focus of this part of the proposal—are based in London, Heidelberg, Florence, Hong Kong, and Buenos Aires. Most Seaver College students who participate in these year-round programs do so during their sophomore year, and approximately fifty percent of the sophomore class participates in these programs annually.
Students often find these overseas experiences to be profoundly life changing. Accordingly, the Pepperdine Voyage project capitalized on this experience that was already such a pivotal period in the students’ lives.
Service Component. In an attempt to heighten vocational reflection in the context of the International Programs, we strengthened the service dimension of these experiences in significant ways.
The Pepperdine Voyage project employed in each term and at each international site one student who served in the role of Student Service Coordinator. That student was responsible for organizing and implementing the various service initiatives at that location, in concert with the director of that particular international program. They were also encouraged to lead book discussion groups focused around the theme of vocation.
Prior to departure, students competed for the position of Student Service Coordinator for each overseas location. Students selected for these leadership positions were required to participate in a special student-oriented seminar on the theme, “Service and Vocation,” and received compensation for their overseas leadership activities in the form of student wages.
This program was such a success in each of the International Programs and the service component has become so entrenched in the international experience, that the International Program directors determined it would continue, but without the need for a paid Student Service Coordinator position. The work is now done on a voluntary basis.