Feb. 1, 2022 – Valparaiso, Indiana – Valparaiso University has been awarded a two-year grant for its new initiative: “Valpo on the Brink: Rethinking Mission, History and Identity at a Lutheran University” by the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) Reframing the Institutional Saga program. The grant totals $40,000 and begins on Feb. 1, 2022, with the final reports from the initiative’s participants planned to be completed by March 1, 2024.

“Valpo on the Brink” seeks to rethink how the University approaches the complex cultural challenges of the modern day, including interfaith relations, pluralism and secularism, race relations and political polarization, the relationship between the liberal arts and the professional fields and globalizing Christian theology. The initiative hopes that, by confronting these issues, Valparaiso University will be better equipped to continue thriving as one of the nation’s premiere Lutheran institutions.

“We hope that this grant encourages several key faculty members to bring their expertise to bear on issues that the University needs to think well and wisely about, even as they raise questions about what exactly Valpo’s ‘story’ is these days,” said Thomas (Tal) Albert Howard, Ph.D., Phyllis and Richard Duesenberg Chair in Christian Ethics and professor of humanities.

Faculty members joining Howard in the program include Kevin Gary, Ph.D., professor of education; Slavica Jakelic, PhdD., associate professor of social thought in Christ College; Aaron Preston, Ph.D., professor philosophy; and Mel Piehl, Ph.D., senior research professor in Christ College, among others.

These participants will meet regularly and each work to produce a paper to address their assigned issue. They will be assisted by outside speakers and consultants who will address one or more of these issues with the larger University community. Members researching interfaith relations will visit ​​churches, synagogues and mosques to cultivate better relations with members of diverse religions.

The results of these meetings, conversations and papers will be eligible for publication in appropriate journals, reviewed by key administrators and made available for those involved in the University’s strategic planning, as well as being used in other University venues. The papers will also be posted online and contribute to the University’s self-understanding as it approaches the 100th anniversary of its Lutheran identity in 2025.

The provider of the grant, NetVUE, is a nationwide network of colleges and universities formed to enrich the intellectual and theological exploration of vocation among undergraduate students overseen by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC). Grants for the Reframing the Institutional Saga are made possible through the generous support of Lilly Endowment Inc.