Alumni share their "callings" in Professions With Purpose panel

Release Date: 4/9/2013

The University of the Ozarks’ Alumni Office and the university’s Committee on Religion, Ethics, and Vocation will present an alumni roundtable discussion on Thursday, April 18, titled "More than A Paycheck: Professions With Purpose." The event will be held in conjunction with Alumni Weekend 2013.

The event will be begin at 6 p.m. in Baldor Auditorium and will feature several Ozarks alumni. Among those expected to be on the panel are Sydney (Johnson) Greene, a 2007 biology graduate who is working as a physical therapist in Mountain Home, Ark.; Jessica (Flusche) Hays, a 1998 biology graduate who is vice president for museum operations for the United States Marshall's Museum in Fort Smith, Ark.; Wambugu Gachungi, a 2007 religion and philosophy graduate who is the director of the Tulsa International Fellowship ministry in Tulsa, Okla.; and AnnaJo Terrill, a 2007 English graduate who teaches oral communications and English at Clarksville High School.

Professor of Religion Dr. Dave Daily said hearing from former students who are on their career paths can often benefit current students who are struggling with choosing a future profession.

"Students can learn that a calling doesn't come like a bolt of lightning from the skies," Daily said. "In fact, people find their callings by a process of reflection and purposeful decisions, based on what they love, what they are good at doing, and what they think needs to be done.  Also, you don't have to be going into church ministry in order to have a genuine calling.  As I see it, almost any work can be done mindfully, with attentiveness to the ways we can love and serve others through the tasks we do.  That's why our panel has a range of professions represented - a physical therapist, a vice-president of a not-for-profit museum, a high school teacher, and a minister.  Students who hear their stories, we hope, will learn from Ozarks graduates how to find their own paths."

Daily said the idea for the Professions With a Purpose event came about three years ago in a meeting of the university's Religion, Ethics and Vocation ad hoc committee.

"Our job was to explore opportunities for ethical reflection and vocational discernment on Ozarks' campus," Daily said. "We wanted to find ways for our current students to hear the stories of others who had pursued callings that were meaningful and personally rewarding. (Jones Learning Center Director) Julia Frost pointed out that we already have alumni coming to campus each year for Alumni Weekend.  Why not showcase their experiences for students' benefit?  (Ozarks President) Dr. Rick Niece has always said that our students are our greatest asset.  And we just knew that if we put former students together with current students, talking about the big questions of meaningful work and life purpose, good things would happen.  The last two years we have heard remarkable stories from graduates, many of whom have changed careers and even professions, but who nevertheless have seen it all as part of a consistent call to serve others with their unique combination of talents and gifts. "

It's this type of discussion that Daily believes fits perfectly with Ozarks' mission to educate the complete person - professionally, intellectually and spiritually.

"I think students already know that we don't live by bread alone," he said. "They want to be able to support themselves and their future families, of course, but they also want their lives to count for something more than the dollar figure on a paycheck.  That's why at Ozarks, we find ways to walk with students as they ask the big questions about what life is really about, what challenges the world is facing, what gives them joy - and then help them pursue the skills and opportunities that are in line with all of those things."