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a journal of analysis and comment advancing public understanding of religion and education
(more on the Journal)

Spring 2007
Vol. 34 No. 2

Planning for Change in Christian Colleges:

Learnings from PTEV


Sarah Birmingham Drummond


The Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation (PTEV), an initiative of the Lilly Endowment, Inc., have attracted the attention of many parties interested in higher education in historically Christian colleges and universities. Through a grant program, the Lilly Endowment has awarded $176.2 million over four years to colleges that devise creative means for engaging campus communities around the theological concept of vocation. The total amount granted was spread out among 88 schools that received funding, as well as an additional 11 schools which received planning grants of $50 thousand but were not awarded implementation grants of $1 million or more. The dollar amount is remarkably high by any standard, but is especially notable considering the financial struggles of many of the Christian colleges who were successful in garnering funds.

The amount of money associated with the program is only one reason for which leaders in Christian colleges are paying attention to the PTEV. As one can see from the article which appeared in the Winter 2006 issue of this journal entitled "Evoke: Remembering an Institutionís Mission Through Soulful Renewal," PTEV satellite programs are catalyzing institutional change.1 Through creating programming around a theological concept especially relevant to the college experience, PTEV programs are helping Christian colleges to reconnect with their sectarian roots. This article will explore the nature of that change by focusing upon how institutions mapped out their programs.

This article will present some key findings from a case study on the planning processes that brought about the creation of PTEV programs on three different campuses. Through examining those three planning processes, the article will describe lessons learned from the PTEV about the nature of planning for change in Christian colleges.  


In May of 1999, the Lilly Endowment, Inc., a large private foundation connected with Eli Lilly & Company, launched a grants initiative. The Lilly Endowment has a history of supporting programs in higher education and has recently focused on helping Christian colleges to reconnect with their particular religious traditions. The program it created in 1999 aimed to encourage conversation on traditionally Christian college campuses about the meaning of vocation.

The purpose of the PTEV is to help Christian colleges to create programs that bring vocation to the center of institutional discourse. It seeks to infuse curricula, campuses, and chapels with a sense of commitment to seeking and following Godís call. Lilly Endowment officials offer neither caveats nor disclaimers when they say that the program intends to bring about fundamental changes in the ways in which Christian colleges educate students.

One reads on the PTEV Web site that each grant recipient school has been given the freedom to design vocational discernment programs that suit their unique histories and campus cultures. Program goals include affording exploration opportunities to students discerning a sense of calling to Christian ministry, but overall program objectives are more comprehensive. They point to a need for young men and women to be encouraged to discern Godís call as they make life choices typical of the college years: career, values, and relationships. Some of the activities supported by PTEV grants include "Incorporating the theological exploration of vocation into courses or campus experiences," "Developing or strengthening campus-ministry programs," and "Establishing faith and learning centers or institutes".2

In 2005, the author of this article conducted a case study on the planning processes that led to the creation of PTEV programs on three different campuses. Because the PTEV framework is intended to be adaptable across diverse institutions, the author investigated the ways in which schools took advantage of this freedom and created programs that reflected their institutionsí cultures and needs.


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