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Students Find Help Navigating Life and Their Vocation

St. Norbert College’s Navigate program intends to provide students with the opportunity to explore questions of meaning and purpose within the context of vocation. As students search for their calling, they experience opportunities that expose them to a world filled with variety.

Currently in its fourth year on campus, Navigate grew from a senior book discussion group led by Rebecca Lahti ’00 and co-worker Sandy Murphy (Emmaus Center) in 2009. After leading this program for four years, it eventually dismantled. A year after the last group, however, another opportunity presented itself in Julie Massey (Mission & Student Affairs), who was inspired by her experience in a ministry formation program and wanted to create a similar program available to all students, regardless of their desired occupation. Eager to explore the potential behind this idea, Lahti piloted what is now known as the Navigate program with a group of seniors.

After seeing success and researching the effectiveness of vocation programming, Lahti identified the benefits of expanding the program to students earlier in their college experience, particularly sophomores. “That was really the key year for giving them the opportunity to ask questions and explore these questions,” Lahti explained.

Now in its fourth year on campus, Navigate is open to sophomores, juniors and seniors, who make up 45 total participants. Within the yearlong vocation exploration program, students are provided the opportunity to perform a vocation interview in a field of interest and to participate in mentor meetings, reflection time or a silent retreat. Each opportunity is designed to encourage respect, empathy, personal development and contemplation, which in turn help students answer their own pressing questions and explore their personal callings.

Incentives, such as the $500 scholarship, certainly draw in applicants, though students find that the program offers more than what they expected. Upon finishing the program, students write a reflection piece; one student summed it up this way: “As a group, we are able to step out of our daily existence and have meaningful conversations that stick with us throughout the week. The program is teaching me how to reflect on the world around me and learn more about myself.” Clearly, the program opens students’ minds beyond their group discussion.

While encouraging students to consider and discuss their potential vocational callings, Navigate looks to show students that there are different ways to find themselves and understand their purpose in life, and that a vocation means much more than a simple job title. Current Navigate participant Nicole Fellrath ’19 exemplifies this fact, claiming that her view of vocation is now centered around the question: “What makes me feel alive?” She further states that, “When I do figure out what my calling is, I will be able to live out my call to its fullest and truly be alive.”

Lahti, as a leading figure in the program, is amazed with the students’ reaction to a program that, in principle, seems so straightforward and practical. “There are so many different ways that some students take it,” Lahti explains. “I think many of them just start looking at their lives in a deeper way. They take time to themselves to reflect on what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it.”

As news of Navigate’s success has spread, the program has seen growth. The numbers of nominations and applications has jumped, increasing in one year from 45 to 80. And Lahti does not intend to stop here. “My hopes are to expand the number of groups and students that we are reaching,” she explains. Not only this, but the program is considering implementing interest groups that correlate specifically with what a student desires, whether that be their major, talents or hobbies. As the program gains interest and recognition, it will only grow to encompass more students and provide many with the unique opportunity to explore themselves through their own personal callings as not only a professional, but as an individual.

May 2, 2017