Recently I read several dozen articles from the Chronicle of Higher Education from the past few years, diagnosing “the moment” at which faculty find ourselves.
At the same time, I was re-reading my notes from a recent gathering of theological educators (people forming the next generation of pastors) I hosted–also to “diagnose this moment” at institutions with such programs. I asked about theological educators’ current sense of their vocations and their careers. Where are faculty in this specialized area finding themselves these days? Early on the first day of conversations, these factors emerged:
- Anxiety with changes, transition to virtual work – is this real education? Am I doing it well? Not as satisfying. Missing potential for formation?
- Sense of living and working in a time of transition – everyone knows education is ripe for disruptive innovation
- Identity: am I simply a professor or also a mentor, coach, something else? – transitions in teaching [and I’d add: student needs and preferences in education] lead to questions of identity
- The need for rest, with some burnout: schools have tighter budgets, are asking people to do more
- New opportunities, flexibility to relocate, work from home, be near family, flourish in new ways, get in front of new audiences and address issues, needs, concerns beyond the traditional seminary (etc.)
As I read these notes, I was getting a strong feeling of déjà vu – where had we seen a combination of factors similar to this before? And it dawned on me: this was reminding me of David Miller’s characterization of the 1980s-90s in America, the rise of the “third wave” of the faith and work movement, and his description of the factors and pressures that led boomers to turn to questions of spirituality related to their work (both new age and traditionally religious), in search of a revived and restructured identity and a recovered satisfaction in work [in his book Got at Work]. I went back and re-read the main section of Miller that dealt with this and that made the link between vast changes in the business sector (in particular) and an increased focus on “spiritual” issues related to work. I’m pasting it below, then I want to draw out the parallel with today’s higher ed situation and faculty’s experience.Continue reading