Further to my piece yesterday – “Readings on the vocations, and challenges, of professors today” – and building on recent experiences of reading several dozen Chronicle of Higher Education articles and convening several groups of professors, here’s a reflection on the “moment” academe seems to be experiencing right now.
Back in March, I had the honor of convening several groups of theological educators (seminary and college faculty) to explore their vocational development needs. One question I asked was about the current vocational challenges faculty are facing. After breaking into small groups, we heard reports from each. One group identified these challenges (rendered here in note format):
- 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 student needs and preferences) lead to questions of identity
- The need for rest, with some burnout: schools have tighter budgets, are asking people to do more
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, in his book God at Work, of the 1980s-90s in the American business world, 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 (both new age and traditionally religious) related to their work, in search of a revived and restructured identity and a recovered vocational satisfaction.
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 current vocational experience.Continue reading