This week, Wheaton College students were given the opportunity to actively explore a biblical theology of work by hearing from alumni, professors and prominent speakers who live out this calling in their daily lives. Opus: The Art of Work, an institute of Wheaton College launched a series of sessions with prominent speakers from around the country, dedicated to helping students understand their place in the workforce in regards to faith and vocation. Regardless of career calling, the program exists to encourage students to see that their faith and work do not have to be mutually exclusive — God can be glorified in both the Christian and secular realms of the workplace.
On Saturday, Opus launched its first event of the week, a plenary session entitled “Ebola. Malaria. Stories and Callings of Service in a Dying World.” The lecture featured Admiral Tim Ziemer and ebola survivor Nancy Writebol. Ziemer is a former president of World Relief, and is the U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator who oversees all of the international anti-malaria projects, including President Barack Obama’s Malaria Initiative. Writebol was the second American to contract ebola, and she and her husband spoke about how their faith brought them through her diagnosis and recovery. The session was followed by a dessert reception in the Billy Graham Museum where people could meet Nancy and David Writebol and Ziemer.
Opus also hosted a luncheon for faculty fellows on Tuesday, with executive director of Redeemer’s Center for Faith and Work Katherine Leary Alsdorf as the main speaker. Alsdorf has had years of experience navigating the corporate world while keeping her faith at the heart of her vocation.
At the same time as Alsdorf’s luncheon, author of “Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good” and the principal of The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation & Culture Steve Garber took time out of his speaking schedule to speak to associate professor of business Paul Lee’s business spring Senior Seminar class, which consisted of a group of 20 students, about how to unite their faith and future business endeavors.
Later that evening, Garber joined professor of biology Kristen Page, Phil Vischer and industrial physicist Mark Woodworth on a panel that discussed how important it is for artists and creative thinkers to join the fields of math, science and business. The panel kicked off with Garber challenging students to entertain the notion of shifting cultural conversations to more valuable questions that matter.
Page discussed ways that scientists can form their questions and hypotheses in creative ways in order to better define their methodology. Page went on to encourage students to see how art can be used as a powerful tool to teach others about the importance of public health. As an example, she showed an evocative black and white video that talked about how dirty drinking water is one of the main leading causes of death in various countries around the world.
Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales, spoke about how creativity can be found in our everyday lives. Vischer told the story of the genesis of Veggie Tales, describing how he employed creative and practical thinking in order to create the beloved kids’ show. Woodworth also spoke on the importance of the process of combining critical thinking and creativity.
Senior Melissa Kohler expressed how much she appreciated the event and the panelists’ insight. “I was pleasantly surprised when I realized how relevant and useful this talk was not only to my studies as a Communications Rhetoric and Culture major, but also as an aspiring professional come graduation this May,” Kohler said. “In all, I found these diverse perspectives on how business and creativity overlap to give me a fresh look at how art can be utilized in the modern workplace.”
One of the other events that took place this week was the Praxis Workshop curated by Praxis Labs, a nonprofit venture group. This private workshop was held for the finalists of Wheaton’s Shark Tank, an ongoing entrepreneurial competition.
The Record spoke to Opus’ program director Ben Norquist about the promise of the program and involvement of not only students but faculty as well.
“One of the other things we want to do is equip faculty to address vocation well so that we aren’t the only ones speaking that to students, but that it actually becomes just a part of the fabric of this place,” Norquist said. “So as students go in and out of classes that they’re also hearing good reflection on vocation and being prompted to think about and prepare for vocation for meaningful work in their lives in the classroom as well as outside the classroom.”