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Center for Vocational Discovery celebrates official opening

The Lipscomb community gathered for the opening of this innovative program that is already making a difference in the lives of students.

Kim Chaudoin  | 

Ribbon cutting ceremony

Hope Nordstrom, Earl Lavender, Board Chair David Solomon, President Candice McQueen, Rob Touchstone and Brent Roe-Hall officially open the Center for Vocational Discovery.

Students who attend Lipscomb University have a transformative experience that not only prepares them for their chosen field of study, but also helps them discover their life’s purpose.  

The Lipscomb community gathered on Thursday, Oct. 6, to celebrate the official opening of the new Center for Vocational Discovery (CVD), which launched this fall to help students discover their purpose while also preparing for a career. 

A ceremony with a ribbon cutting marked the opening of the center, located on the second floor of the Crisman Administration Building, followed by a special presentation of the Tokens Show, with a vocation-focused theme. 

“We are about purpose and meaning and the integration of faith and work. This space is a place to invite our students into a journey of discovery of their identity in Christ, their God-given purpose, their vocation and where they will go into the world to live out what God is calling them to do,” said Rob Touchstone, director of the center and founder of the Lipscomb College of Business Business As Mission program, at the grand opening. “We feel like this is so much more than a transactional education. We want our students to come here and learn that their education can be used to make the world a better place. We want our students to be transformed. We believe this center will impact generations to come.”

Reception in front of Crisman
Group of students at reception

The Center for Vocational Discovery grand opening celebration began with a reception outside Crisman Administration Building.

The CVD takes students on a four-year journey of life discovery that unifies their entire university experience. Each year of a student’s experience will have a specific focus and will be integrated into academics, student life and spiritual formation activities. The center officially launched with the incoming freshman class this fall.

“So many of you here tonight have shaped the opportunities that we have before us,” said Earl Lavender, executive director of the center and director of missional studies in Lipscomb’s College of Bible & Ministry. “It really is a village of collaboration coming together that I can only believe is the work of the Holy Spirit because we have all wanted to see this vision of Lipscomb becoming everything it could be in terms of being a Christ-centered institution.”

The Center for Vocational Discovery also builds on work that is already part of the fabric of the Lipscomb community such as Lipscomb Missions, the Business As Mission program in the College of Business, College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences mission and service projects, and the Peugeot Center for Engineering Service in Developing Communities in the Raymond B. Jones College of Engineering

Three faculty at reception
Opening remarks inside Crisman

The Center for Vocational Discovery is located in Crisman Administration Building, where the ribbon cutting ceremony took place.

“The work that we are intentionally doing through this center has been going on at Lipscomb forever. With the opening of the Center for Vocational Discovery we build on this foundation as we elevate this work through this university-wide focus,” said President Candice McQueen. “Now we are just intentionally creating a pathway that is happening from the freshman year all the way to graduation. Those who have built this center have been doing this work for years. I’m proud that we are now intentionally putting structure to this and holding this up to say this is who we are for all who will listen and will hopefully come and want to have this experience.”

The Center for Vocational Discovery is a central part of the university’s new strategic plan — Lipscomb Impact 360 — and a focus of its first year. That’s because, “We are a Christ-centered community that prepares students for lives of purpose … and we do that by providing our students a rigorous academic program and life-transforming experiences,” said McQueen.

“What’s happening through the Center for Vocational Discovery is helping students find their purpose,” she continued. “It’s doing it through our academic program. That’s the intentionality around it. And specific experiences that are being planned to make sure we don’t leave anything to chance. It is built upon people and relationships and the work that is so critical that happens in a one-on-one environment.”

Student speaking at ceremony

Senior Gina Nored, representing the student body, shares inspirational thoughts at the ceremony.

President McQueen at the grand opening

President Candice McQueen connects the opening of the center to a strategic focus of Impact 360.

The grand opening celebration also included a special edition of the Tokens Show, a live, staged variety show founded and hosted by ​​Lee Camp, Lipscomb professor of theology and ethics. The theme of the show was, “The Great American Songbook: Vocation,” and featured musicians Cody Fry, Odessa Settles and Steve Taylor, assistant professor of film and creative media. The Lipscomb University Choir was also featured during the show. Through interview segments with Camp, the performers shared their career journeys. McQueen, along with Lipscomb alumna Mignon Francois, founder of the Cupcake Collection, provided insight into their calling and vocational journeys.  

Through the center, students will embark on a four-year journey that begins as an incoming freshman and continues until graduation. Each year will have a specific focus and will be integrated into a student’s experience in a variety of ways. The freshman year centers on identity, giftedness and a strengths assessment. In the sophomore year, students explore the very important questions of purpose, and as juniors engage more in their fields of study the center works with students on academic discipline-specific integration. In the senior year, students continue to explore and refine how they will use their gifts and talents to better the world as they consider career placement or future plans. Along with year-specific programming, students will create a series of reflections through specific assignments that will be collected in an electronic portfolio that they will receive when they graduate. 

Even in its first few months of existence, the center is having an impact on this year’s freshman class. Some shared their perspective.

“I was under the impression one of the only ways to impact the Kingdom of Heaven was serving on staff at a church. Through the Center for Vocational Discovery my view has shifted, and I’m understanding I’m called to share the gospel to the world in whatever field I may be placed in. I can’t wait to further explore the resources this center has to offer, and watch as so many other students find the special place where their calling and vocation meet.” — Logan Bennett

Students looking at the WHY wall.
The center

The center is a gathering space for students in Crisman.

“Coming into Lipscomb University as a freshman, one of my primary objectives was to develop the gifts and strengths that God has given me so that I might grow in relationship with Him and others. Through the Center for Vocational Discovery, Rob Touchstone has helped me learn how to fully understand my identity and purpose as God's child, while strategically thinking about how I might accomplish the will of God in the business world and in the marketplace.” — JP Coffman

Alaina Morris, said that the CVD has been incredibly valuable as she is diving deeper into her studies. She shared, “It has taught me about my strengths that I did not realize I have and now I can learn to use those to benefit me in many different ways.”

“I am excited about the opening of the Center for Vocational Discovery as it has brought clarity to the idea of God’s purposes for my life. It serves great importance as I continue to learn about my God-given strengths to love others and further His kingdom. The space enables vulnerable and encouraging conversations about God’s activity in our lives." — Simon Wadlington

“The Center for Vocational Discovery has already helped me to engage in better self-reflection about my gifts and talents, and how they may help or hinder me in certain career paths. Because of this, I’m so excited to continue being involved with the center, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!” — Faith Coleman

Lee Camp at Tokens

Lee Camp hosted a special edition of Tokens Show to celebrate the grand opening.

President McQueen, Mignon Francois and Lee Camp

President McQueen, Mignon Francois and Lee Camp discuss their vocational journeys at the Tokens Show.

“Although my experience with the CVD has been brief, it has already begun impacting how I interact with others in my everyday life by challenging me to be intentional with my unique strengths and to recognize and value the same in others. I know that the CVD will be an invaluable resource in my future years at Lipscomb, especially because of the talented people involved in it who are dedicated to helping me reach my full potential in the calling that God has laid out for me.” — Jaidyn Smart

“Having an entire center dedicated to students for finding their vocation is very impactful for advancing the Kingdom of God. Having a program that focuses on students graduating with a purpose is so much more fulfilling to me than walking away with a paycheck or prestige, and for that reason I am extremely grateful for Lipscomb, and its intentionality in this field.” — Caleb Hinkle

Lavender along with Hope Nordstrom, special counsel to the president for strategy at Lipscomb, are co-leaders for strategy and development of the center. In addition to Touchstone, the CVD team includes Brent Roe-Hall, who serves as an assistant director in addition to his duties as an assistant dean of vocation & spiritual formation in the Office of Student Life. The center has received generous funding from the Dillard Family Foundation, established by Max and Gayle Dillard of Dallas, Texas. 

Steve Taylor, Odessa Settles and Lee Camp

Steve Taylor, Odessa Settles and Camp at the Tokens Show.

— Photos by Kristi Jones