Belmont University helps students find their purpose with “What’s Your Why?” Course

When Dr. Alex Hartemink recently took the stage at Belmont for a chat with Dr. Greg Jones, students might have expected him to talk about his work at Duke University on algorithms and computational genomics. And yes, he was part of it. But he spoke above all of truth and beauty. He talked about growing up and finding his way. He talked about losing faith and finding it again. He talked about purpose.

Hartemink was one of eight guest speakers at a course hosted by Dr. Greg Jones and Reverend Susan Pendelton Jones. Other speakers included Makoto Fujimura (artist and author of “Art + Faith: A Theology of Making”), Esau McCaulley (author of “Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope” and Cordia Harrington (CEO, entrepreneur and founder of The Bakery Companies).

During the ‘What’s Your Why’ (also known as ‘Developing Purpose’) course last semester, students met as a group at the Massey Performing Arts Center, but it often looks like something that could happen. produce in a living room. The Joneses often start the sessions with a conversation with their guests, then the students have the opportunity to think about life issues, to talk among themselves. It’s a time to slow down, reflect, listen and learn from each other – all in the context of discovering a purposeful life that starts with finding the “why”.

Students begin the course by choosing a section – Heartfelt Storyteller, Organizational Innovator, Thoughtful Investigator, Creative Visionary, or Compassionate Guide. They come together as a full group, but also with their smaller sections where students from different majors and grade levels bring their unique experiences, goals, and dreams while finding common ground and community amid their differences.

For example, if Hartemink was taking the course, he could choose the Thoughtful Investigator category. He remembers a time when his father bought a TI-99 computer on sale for $50. He majored in physics, economics and mathematics, which he calls “the language of the truth of something”. Then, as the conversation continued about what he calls “the adaptive algorithm” – making the best possible choices at all times with faith – it helped illuminate the multitudes we contain. As we learn from each other’s experiences and interests, we also leave room for the serendipity that occurs when ideas collide to form something entirely new.

“I appreciated his perspective that truth, goodness and beauty can always motivate those working in scientific fields and that we can remain visionaries and creative storytellers even with critical thinking and skills. investigation, said Analese Mitchell, a freshman public health student. “I have been able to combine religion, theology, the arts, the humanities with a love of science and mathematics and deep critical thinking and I know they are not completely distant from each other, but that they interact very well. All in all, all of these things can motivate me professionally in my life and continue to give me purpose.

Indeed, students who took the course in the Spring 2022 semester recognized the joy they find in discovering their unlikely differences and similarities.

“Listening to people’s thoughts and ideas and how we really relate was super cool to me,” said Erin Patterson, a marketing major who chose the group of thoughtful interviewers. “You can never be separated by doing one thing. It’s all super interconnected, and I thought that was really interesting.

Other students appreciated the balance the course offered to stimulate the mind and stimulate the community.

For Wesley Gerndt, a second-year psychology student in the Compassionate Guides section, the course “definitely challenged me to consider new perspectives and value people from all walks of life.”

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