Call it a calling

University 101 instructors take a page from First-Year Reading Experience book

Many instructors in University 101, Carolina’s seminar for incoming freshmen, are using the First-Year Reading Experience book “Callings” in their classrooms this semester. We asked a few of them to talk about their plans for incorporating the text into their syllabi and how they will use their own experiences to help students figure out paths of their own.

In addition, President Harris Pastides will be talking about his calling at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 26 at the Koger Center for the Arts, and Provost Joan Gabel is encouraging all faculty who teach freshman level classes to discuss their own callings during the week of Sept. 25.

David DeWeil is the associate principal of the Capstone Scholars program. This will be his ninth semester teaching U101.

Since 2009, I’ve had my U101 classes meet with people in the community — doctors, coaches, artists, chefs, small business owners and even Uber drivers — to find out how they got to where they are now. They talk about what they’re passionate about, what obstacles they’ve had to overcome, what their plans were when they were freshmen in college — if they went to college — how those plans have changed over the years, who their mentors were and/or the people who opened a door of opportunity for them. Basically, they describe their story since being an 18-year-old and the winding road that led them to where they are. My goal is to help freshmen realize that they don’t have to have life figured out just yet, but also to give them hope that as long as they pursue their passions, amazing things can happen even when facing trials and obstacles. It’s all about that resiliency.

So many students come to college with motivations, dreams and aspirations, but there are many questions along with uncertainty. Not everyone has that “passion” their freshmen year or has that particular “thing” they know they want to pursue at this point. Reading through these stories gives hope and inspires them to value those things they find interesting and to pursue what they feel like they’re called to do.

I typically share my own story of how I began as an undeclared major, changed my major multiple times, and even when I graduated from USC still wasn’t 100 percent certain what I wanted to do. When I discovered the world of higher education and student affairs, I began to recall all of the things I was involved in as an undergrad, and how each of those beyond-the-classroom experiences was preparing me for my future career. When I was 18 or 19, I wasn’t sure what that was at the time, but looking back it’s so clear.

I feel incredibly blessed to be able to teach U101 because it allows me to do what I love, and that’s connect students to experiences that are going to help them find purpose at USC. I love being able to showcase what our university has to offer but also to play that small role in telling them, “It’s OK, you don’t have to have it all figured out, you don’t have to put so much pressure on yourself, the clarity of your calling will come with time.”

Rachel M. Denmark is an academic advisor in the South Carolina Honors College. This is her first year teaching U101.

I plan to incorporate the book through a series of discussion strategies and a large project that asks students to interview faculty or staff about their callings.

A student's first year is such a pivotal time in their lives. They are learning more and more about themselves and discovering that life is a journey. By discussing other individuals' callings, hopefully students are able to make meaning of their own journey.

Since this is my first year, I hope I will make an impact on my students by giving them the resources necessary to make informed decisions and provide the challenge and support necessary to help them achieve their goals.

I feel as though many first-year students have an idea of their calling, but I would encourage students to be open to different paths and do what "feels right."

I can't wait to positively impact my students by sharing my story and supporting them while they work through their own story. Being an instructor is an exciting new endeavor for me, and I do believe this experience will play a part in my calling.

Drew Newton is the assistant director of first-year academic advising. This is his sixth semester teaching U101.

As an instructor for a Darla Moore School of Business/Capstone Scholars section,I’ll focus a great deal on helping students be major- and career-ready. There’s no better text through which to analyze your values, your interests and your skills than “Callings.”  I hope this text helps our class evaluate what really motivates them, and how you can shape your personal and professional pursuits around that calling.

We all want to devote our lives to something that creates meaning and purpose. “Callings” is appropriate at any age, but when we are able to help first-year students begin their collegiate journey, asking such important questions with intentionality, that’s a tremendous win.  The deeper the questions we can present now, the more fruitful their Carolina experience will be.

Students in U101 have a dedicated space to question, to dig deeper and to redirect their efforts as new interests presents themselves. I think U101 is our intentional way of saying,  "We are confident we can help you find yourself here, and we’re launching that journey with you." I think many students arrive with an inkling of their calling, but if they’re doing it right, they’ll turn that inkling upside down — or at least put it to the test.

I’m a teacher at heart.Before coming to higher ed, I was a middle school English teacher. There’s no question I’m in my element when I’m with a group of people presenting, questioning or facilitating. I feel like every student I teach allows me to reaffirm or reexamine my calling, and I find that healthy cultivation to be incredibly meaningful. In that way, we’re learning together.

Ryan Lloyd is an area coordinator in USC Housing over Preston Residential College, South Tower and the Carolina Men’s Community at McBryde. He has taught U101 since 2013.

The book has an overarching theme of finding your passion in life as well as smaller sub-themes ranging from perseverance, social justice, relationships and values development. This allows me to integrate the book into classroom discussions around employability, academic advising, values clarification and diversity. I am also weaving the book into a career plan assignment that students will interact with over three stages as they explore potential passion areas, begin to develop their resume and conduct informational interviews with professionals in their desired career path.

“Callings” provides a window into the lives of others who have found their passion in life. The first year of college can be a very difficult and exciting time of transition as students negotiate what it means to be themselves as newly independent individuals. One of the greatest concerns that I typically hear from students when they arrive at college is that they are worried about finding a job and being happy after graduating.

University 101 is an extraordinary learning lab where students are able to explore what life will be like for them in college. The transition from high school to college can be difficult and bumpy for many students, and U101 helps to ease their path as they begin their new journey. As a U101 instructor, I have the amazing opportunity to impact my students through engaging pedagogy, class activities and discussions that are both formal and informal. It is magical to see students engage in discussions regarding their values and beliefs and how they have changed over the course of their lives and in their first semester of college.

I’ve witnessed my students from fall 2013 progress through their four years of college and enter the workforce, and it is incredible to stay in touch and continue to mentor and learn about what is going on in their lives. I am confident that I am a better student affairs educator because of the work that I do inside of the classroom and the relationships that I build through teaching students in University 101.

Maureen Greweis director of student conduct in the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity. She has been teaching U101 at Carolina since 2011.

My entire syllabus this year is based around “Callings.” Each day in class we will have a brief discussion or journal about a StoryCorps question to help students identify their callings. For their midterm, I plan on having my students interview someone who has found their calling in a field my students think they might be interested in. I also plan on using “Callings” for their final project, where students will synthesize their first semester experiences, both in and out of the classroom.

“Callings” does an amazing job of showing that there is no one path to discovering what to be when you grow up, and that it’s OK to change your career direction as you change as a person. It’s a message all first-year students can benefit from hearing.

As a first-year student myself, I thought I had identified my calling, to become an attorney like my dad. After taking a pre-law section of U101 and my first political science course, I realized it was not, my plan was shattered, and I was anxious. I think is a common experience for many first-year students.

Teaching U101 is by far one of my favorite things about working at USC. It plays into my calling as an educator and my desire to make an impact in my community. Serving as a role model to incoming students and helping them discover the magic of being a Gamecock is an incredible honor.

About the book

“Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work,” by StoryCorps founder Dave Isay, is filled with stories of people who have found their path to doing what they believe they were meant to do.

The book features the story of a woman who left her job as a state employee to become a bridgetender, opening and closing drawbridges; a conversation between a neurosurgeon and an eighth-grade science teacher who inspired his career; and a retired accountant who became a salmon slicer in a New York City deli.

“Callings" also includes two stories with South Carolina ties. Carl McNair remembers his brother Ronald McNair, an astronaut from Lake City who was killed when the Challenger space shuttle exploded in 1986, and 10-year-old Sydney Reed talks with her grandfather, Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, about his life in politics.

The stories were edited from transcripts of interviews done as part of StoryCorps, a radio program that shares interviews of people telling their stories as a way to build connections.

StoryCorps began in October 2003, with the opening of a story booth in Grand Central Terminal in New York City. Since then it has expanded to include permanent and mobile StoryCorps studios and a weekly broadcast on NPR’s Morning Edition. “Callings,” released in 2016, is the fifth book of StoryCorps interviews.

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