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University of Michigan
Private Higher Education
Date Approved

Many college and university students believe it is important to derive a sense of purpose from their work. And many employers agree. When it comes to the workforce, employers prefer to hire people who approach their jobs with a sense of purpose, and research indicates that employees with this orientation tend to be happier and more productive. Yet despite this, only a minority of the students who take purpose to be important report that they have successfully found purpose-oriented work.

To increase opportunities for students to cultivate a sense of purpose, the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations (AVDF) launched the Purpose-Oriented Education initiative. The initiative supports projects that provide opportunities for students to discover and develop a sense of purpose in their education and their post-college life.

In support of these efforts, AVDF recently approved a grant of $260,000 to launch the Management as a Calling program at the University of Michigan. The program, hosted by the Ross School of Business, is led by Professor Andy Hoffman, author of a recent book with the same title.

Hoffman will guide two cohorts of business students — half of them undergraduate seniors, half advanced MBA students — through a year-long program designed to help them approach their career as “a calling,” one in which they work to serve society in addition to striving for commercial success. Program elements will include opening and closing immersive retreats with curricula tailored to the project goals, as well as regular seminars and lectures by experts and business leaders during the academic year. The overarching aim will be to help the student participants orient their professional aspirations toward valuable ends, and to provide informed and practical instruction that will enable them to apply their business expertise to achieve those ends.

“While many students enter college looking to develop their sense of purpose, there are few opportunities to do so in a structured setting. Professor Hoffman’s initiative provides just such an opportunity,” said AVDF President, Michael Murray. Murray continued, “the fact that cultivation of purpose leads to greater life satisfaction and more productive employment provides a powerful dual incentive for colleges to provide more offerings of this sort.”