By Melissa Schill
Wheaton College announced the Center for Faith and Innovation’s (CFI) opening in place of Opus; the Art of Work, in order to provide vocational training and resources to a wider scope of Christians, both at Wheaton and in the workplace with alumni.
CFI’s mission, according to the Center’s website, is to “help Christians pursue their work in the marketplace as an act of discipleship to Jesus Christ.”
Through connecting liberal arts professionals, generating theology-based and business research, providing professional education for emerging and current business professionals and disseminating best practices through libraries, blogs, and other publications, CFI aims to equip business professionals to integrate their calling with their faith.
Associate Professor of Theology Keith Johnson and Associate Professor of Marketing Hannah Stolze will co-direct CFI together. Johnson’s role is to provide theological expertise and content for the program through strategic planning, writing and speaking. Stolze will cast a vision for how to move to an external-facing center that engages Christians in the marketplace, as opposed to those inside the Wheaton community. Ben Norquist, former assistant director of Opus, will be the managing director.
Opus, Wheaton’s faith and work institute, was founded in 2014 with a grant from the Kern Family Foundation in order to promote conversations about the theology of work and to provide training for faculty and staff to be vocational mentors for students. More than 160 lessons, lectures and activities have been created for Wheaton’s through the program.
In addition, faculty from 60 percent of the college’s departments received vocational training. However, Opus dealt solely with Wheaton faculty and staff, and did not provide vocational training or resources to students or Christians out in the marketplace.
“Opus created space at Wheaton to talk about vocation in new ways. Once we stood in that space, new opportunities became visible,” Johnson said.
“The transition to CFI is about seizing those opportunities for the benefit of our students.”
The primary way CFI plans to begin engaging with the student body is through the Innovation Lab, which will launch in the fall of 2020. Cross-disciplinary student teams will be created and trained in “design thinking,” a method to develop concepts and a common approach used in the workplace.
Companies will have the opportunity to bring problems to the Innovation Lab so students can put their liberal arts skills and creativity into practice, strategizing and coming up with solutions.
“I love how the Innovation Lab will give students studying the humanities or the arts or the social sciences an opportunity to translate what they are learning in their majors to a marketplace problem while learning how to collaborate on a team,” Assistant Professor of History and Dean of Curriculum and Advising Sarah Miglio said. Miglio’s role in CFI is to “advocate for the director’s team and find ways for CFI to collaborate with campus partners like [the] CVC.”
In addition to engaging with students, CFI hopes to continue working with faculty and staff at Wheaton. Several programs are in place to achieve this aim including CFI Scholars (a program that financially supports creating materials on vocation), the Vocation Seminar (a seminar designed to equip faculty and staff to mentor students in vocational development) and Lunch and Learn (an opportunity for vocational conversation over a meal). CFI also provides fellowships, conferences, and research grants to faculty members.
In an email to the WheatonCollege community, Provost Margaret Diddams said, “I look forward to the ways that our faculty and students will contribute to this renewed initiative to lead the national conversation on how Christian faith and theology should shape and inform our engagement with work and our vocational callings.”