Justice Education


Reflections on Purpose

Soundbites from past Virtues & Vocations webinars

Artwork: “Landscape from On High” by Stephen Conroy © 2015

“The number one question you should be asking is ‘how does the world need me?’ Because the world needs you. There is no question about it. But how does the world need you is the question that will give you a sense of purpose and meaning as well as a sense of where your talents can best fit in the world.”

Laurie Patton
President, Middlebury College

“Pay attention to what really drives you and where your passions are and don’t dismiss that because you feel like you have another expectation that you technically are “supposed to” actually hit or fulfill. That’s not to say you should ignore those things. If you have a passion for something that doesn’t seem feasible, you might have to think creatively about how to get to that. But really pay attention to what those passions are and think creatively about ways to either be engaged in those passions, maybe as you’re doing something else from a practical standpoint, or ways to move forward in a bigger sense.”

Nii Addy
Associate Professor of Psychiatry and of Cellular and Molecular Physiology and Director of Scientist Diversity and Inclusion at Yale School of Medicine

“I’ve got a new talk called ‘Is meaning the new money?’ . . . I think it is. What I mean by that is the hedonic treadmill—that thing of which ‘how much is enough?’ is ‘a little bit more.’ . . . In the workplace, particularly, the two classical engines of the hedonic treadmill were money and power—that thing of which I need a little bit more – and those two engines have driven capitalism to a very productive place. (Not solely, but they’re a big part of the program). And now everybody wants to be in a missional company doing the really cool thing, and so I’ll argue that the thing of which ‘there’s not quite enough, and I’m really more disappointed than I expected to be,’ now is meaning.”

Dave Evans
Co-founder of the Stanford Life Design Lab, co-founder of Electronic Arts and co-author of Designing Your Life

“Where does the salience of the passion principle come from? I argue that it is the tension between two things. One is the challenges of being a worker in the post-industrial labor market, where we have seen a rapid decline in worker power and stability. . . .That, in combination with the idea that we have to have self-expressive projects in our lives. . . . In a really chaotic postmodern world, we feel like we have to find meaning—meaning isn’t given to us—so we’re looking for self-reflexive projects. That in combination suggests that one way to resolve that tension is to find work that is self-fulfilling in the labor market regardless of the kinds of precarity that it might entail.”

Erin Cech
Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Michigan, and author of
The Trouble with Passion: How Searching for Fulfillment at Work Fosters Inequality

“We think about building character through having purpose—working on teams, working collaboratively, thinking about what you are working on outside of yourself and how it is being used for others.”

Gilda Barabino
President, Olin College of Engineering

Spring 2024

From the Editor


Suzanne Shanahan

Part I: Pursuing Virtue

Sabrina B. Little

Kelli Reagan Hickey

Blest Be the Ties that Bind: Remembering a Purpose of Religio in Higher Education

Luke A. Powery

Interlude: Purposeful Pursuits

Part II: Pursuing Vocation

James Coleman, Jr.