Stories of Work, Life, and Fulfillment

"What's your major?" "What are you going to do with your life?"

These are familiar questions to most college students, yet they can be unsettling for those without firm answers. How are we supposed to figure out what we want to "do" with “the rest of our lives?"

This community is intended for students who are uncertain about their futures. They may be confused about their choice of major and/or about what kinds of work to pursue in the years ahead. They may be wondering what skills and abilities they have, what kind of life they want to live, what (if anything) they'd enjoy pursuing as a career, and who to listen to for advice. In this community, students will shape a better understanding of these as central questions in life, and they'll learn what it takes to continually answer and re-answer such questions throughout the years ahead.

Inside the Classroom

In the classroom, students will explore the concepts of "work," "life," and "fulfillment" (among many others) in depth. There are countless voices, both historical and contemporary, telling us how we should live. As we engage some of these voices, we will consider the intersections between our relationships, our work, and the broader lives we lead, and we will question some of the key cultural frames that limit our options. How are we supposed to "be happy," "follow our passion," and "climb the ladder of success"? Such exhortations sound good in social media posts, but they rarely seem to help in our daily lives.

With an emphasis on stories and reflective assignments, students will engage their own perceptions of what makes life fulfilling and/or meaningful. In-depth interviews with alumni and other professionals will provide opportunities to understand life-choices and the unexpected twists and turns we're all likely to face. We'll spend considerable time on the importance of close personal relationships in healthy, satisfying lives. And along the way (with lots of advising and interaction with Career Services) we'll be taking on those omnipresent questions people keep asking about what to major in and what work to pursue.

Outside the Classroom

For guidance through this exploration, we will look in particular to University of Richmond alumni. Students will read and hear the stories of alumni across graduation years, majors, and career paths. Students will formally interview several alumni (and possibly others) in interesting career areas, exploring the choices that brought these people to their current places in life. On a class trip we will meet and interact with alumni and others who have made distinctive life choices and explore the realities of the winding (rather than linear) paths ahead.

Research and Capstone Project

During the spring semester, class will meet weekly as students continue to interview alumni and other professionals. Working in groups, they will shape what they’re learning into contributions to a blog while also exploring in depth someone they believe is living an interesting life.

Sample Course Readings

Mark R. Schwehn & Dorothy C. Bass (Eds.), Leading Lives That Matter: What We Should Do and Who We Should Be

Matthew Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work.

Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

Brett Wigdortz (UR Alum), Success Against the Odds

Emily Esfahini Smith, The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness