Arthur Vining Davis Foundations awards Belmont University $200,000 ‘Purpose’ grant

Belmont University

With the generous support of the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations (AVDF), Belmont University will initiate a new multi-pronged approach to further embed the concept and personal discovery of purpose into students’ curricular and co-curricular experiences. The $200,000 AVDF grant will support intentional programming, workshops, an alumni mentoring program and a university-wide Spring 2022 course, all designed to aid students in discovering purpose in their current studies and future vocations. Belmont Vice President for Transformative Innovation, Character, & Purpose Dr. Amy Crook wrote the grant proposal and will oversee the implementation of grant-funded initiatives on campus along with an interdisciplinary faculty task force.

Belmont President Dr. Greg Jones, his wife Rev. Susan Pendleton Jones and multiple faculty members will team teach the university-wide course next spring. “At Belmont we believe that all people were created by God for a purpose,” said Dr. Jones. “Further, we know that college experiences (both inside and outside the classroom) play an integral role in helping young people discover, understand and ultimately fulfill that purpose. This grant will help strengthen and deepen our focus on establishing purpose as an integral and signature aspect of a Belmont education.”

AVDF Director of Programs John Churchil said: “We at the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations are excited to be supporting this intentional and informed approach to purpose-oriented education, and we hope that it will benefit Belmont’s students during and after their time in college.”

In Spring 2022, Dr. and Rev. Jones will co-teach a university-wide course titled ‘Discovering Your Purpose in God,’ which is inspired by the ‘Designing Your Life’ program from Stanford University’s Life Design Lab. Each week the couple will offer a lecture or conversation with a distinguished invited guest in the campus’ Massey Concert Hall, which seats nearly 1,000 and offers abilities to live stream or record for additional audiences. Faculty members from five different colleges will then hold class discussion sections to explore how the purpose topics manifest in students’ major field of study, allowing these smaller groups to engage in ongoing analysis and application.

A second component supported by the grant will involve development of discipline-specific initiatives that nurture undergraduate students’ sense of purpose in their vocations. One means of achieving this is the piloting of a Purpose Mentorship Program that connects students with Belmont alumni who have excelled in their chosen fields and shown a commitment to higher purpose in their careers. These small and focused mentor circles will meet monthly throughout the year to discuss their purpose journeys and share vocational wisdom. Other endeavors of the grant will include pulling together students and faculty from complementary programs to collaborate as cross-functional teams in creating opportunities to better understand and articulate how a sense of purpose can be infused across a continuum of industries and professions.

Dr. Crook will lead a task force of faculty in stewarding the decision-making process for grant initiatives at the curricular and co-curricular level. The interdisciplinary task force includes: Dr. Lora Harding, Massey College of Business; Dr. Sally Holt, College of Theology and Christian Ministry; Dr. Bruce Dudley, College of Music & Performing Arts; Dr. Sara Camp, Inman College of Health Sciences & Nursing; and Dr. Ken Spring, College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences.

“Students agonize over which major to pursue in order to reach a desired job or career,” said Crook, “and universities often provide professional development oriented around this decision. Belmont aims to do more. Our purpose programming, from the university-wide course to discipline-specific programming and alumni mentoring, will prepare students for a different kind of development. We are helping students identify a passion purpose that stirs their heart to action and then analyze the unique opportunities and obstacles in their discipline that will unleash or inhibit their ability to pursue their purpose. With this investment from the AVDF, we can provide intentional opportunities for students to consider ways to entwine purpose in their personal, spiritual and professional pursuits.”

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