The Eastern Mennonite University 2018-19 Common Read is 'Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work' by StoryCorps founder Dave Isay with Maya Millett. It presents stories of people and the work they love. (Photo by Andrew Strack)

Common Read to explore vocation in StoryCorps’ ‘Callings’

The Eastern Mennonite University Common Read for the 2018-19 academic year is Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work by StoryCorps founder Dave Isay with Maya Millett (Penguin, 2017).

In the book, Isay and Millett present the stories of people and the work they love. A waitress, a public defender, a teacher, an engineer, a doctor and many more “demonstrate how work can be about much more than just making a living, that chasing dreams and finding inspiration in unexpected places can transform a vocation into a calling,” the publisher’s blurb states. “Their shared sense of passion, honor, and commitment brings deeper meaning and satisfaction to every aspect of their lives.”

EMU’s Common Read establishes common ground for discussion in classrooms and other venues. This year, nearly 300 students in classes ranging from first-year writing to a graduate career counseling course will receive copies of the book.

“The book provides an excellent opportunity for faculty and staff to share their own stories of calling and vocation, and to invite students to consider the directions their own stories are taking,” said core curriculum director Kirsten Beachy, a professor of visual and communication arts. “It has the benefit of bringing diverse, personal voices from a broad spectrum of occupations into the classroom.”

Campus events will focus on the theme of calling. An October Suter Science Seminar will highlight Dr. Jill Stoltzfus’s path from studying psychology at EMU to becoming research institute director at St. Luke’s University Health Network. On Nov. 7, faculty members will share from their own experiences in a convocation titled “TenTalks on Calling.” The Academic and Creative Excellence Festival on April 18 will feature keynote speaker Dr. Drew Lanham, professor of wildlife at Clemson University, who will talk about his work as a naturalist.

“I like that we’ll read stories from a variety of persons and professions,” Jennifer Ulrich, technical services librarian said of Callings. “I hope it helps students and all of us think about our work and calling. Is it the same thing?”

Callings is the fifth book from StoryCorps, which seeks “to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world,” its website states. It began in 2003 as a booth in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, and last year released the 500th episode of its podcast.

Previous Common Read selections at EMU have included Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Random House, 2015), Memory of Water  by Emmi Itäranta (Teos, 2012), Searching for Zion: the Quest for Home in the African Diaspora by Emily Raboteau (Grove Press, 2013), The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr (W. W. Norton, 2010), and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Little, Brown, 2007).