Identity, Power & Vocation in Community

Another Way: Living and Leading Change on Purpose

Instructor: Katherine Turpin, PhD

My best contact method is through my Iliff (rather than Canvas) email: .

Course Synopsis

The six credit sequence of Identity, Power, and Vocation in Community (IPVC) cultivates students’ ability to engage in social and theological analysis about social structures, ideologies, and embodied practices that lead to domination or oppression. It facilitates critical thinking about social locations, power and privilege, and what effect these
have on students' vocational paths. The course takes the perspective that this sort of analysis, engaged in community and supported with spiritual practices, is crucial to serving effectively in today’s complex social environment. It encourages students to deepen their commitment to dismantling privilege and oppression at individual, institutional, and societal levels.

By the end of the course and with serious engagement of its practices and materials, students should be able to:

  1. Critically identify their social location and its shifting, contingent nature; move from individualistic to structural conceptualizations of the nature of identity, power, and difference.

  2. Consider the ways in which social structures, systems, and institutions (impersonal forces) are real and have real effects on human bodies; interrogate how we exercise power through our entanglements in a web of oppression and privilege.

  3. Deploy theological, personal, and social tools to recognize and respond to the dynamics of privilege, oppression, and power playing out intrapersonally, interpersonally, in ministry/work contexts, and in the larger world.

  4. Grapple with what it means to engage this analysis and action as life-long commitment to implement the work of justice and peace effectively and intentionally in a variety of vocational contexts.

  5. Struggle with the demands of being in solidarity/allyship across multiple axes of difference in various contexts of power and privilege in which we are connected historically and communally.

  6. Develop a breadth, depth and habit of grounding practices as they assist in deconstruction and reflection upon individual and communal living and in self-care and sustained commitment to a practice of justice seeking. Grounding practices include a  range of activities from more traditional contemplative possibilities such as prayer, meditation, sacred devotional text reading and journaling, to more actively body-engaged practices like exercise, walking, therapeutic accountability, and so on.

  1. Practice spiritual and vocational discernment in community by developing a shared commitment to creating a learning space capable of sustaining the work of this course. Cultivate an orientation to vocational discernment and praxis (doing and reflecting) that is grounded in communal understandings of self and God/the divine.

  2. Begin to consider the implications of this way of analysis for thinking about God/the divine and the nature of reality as expressed in communal religious traditions.

  3. Interrogate the ways power, privilege and oppression impact healthy relationships as a part of professional ethics.

Course Requirements and Evaluation (Winter):

1. Class Participation: Each module of the course has required readings, weekly intentional use of a spiritual grounding practice, class discussions and activities, and occasionally low-stakes written assignments. All of these combine to be counted as the "Participation" grade in the course, which is worth 75% of your grade. Part of that grade will be decided through self-evaluation, since your instructor is not able to see your efforts at home, your completion of readings, and other elements of your work in the class. Regular weekly postings and activities are generally graded completion/noncompletion with instructor feedback. Because the learning community of this course is dependent on the interactions of the students, I value timely participation.  Being consistently late on course discussions and weekly activities will adversely affect your participation grade. All weekly and low-stakes activities can be submitted during the week after their due date, after that they will be marked incomplete and receive no credit.
2. Participation in Gathering Days in the winter quarter.  Because this is 20% of instructional contact for the course, you technically cannot pass the class if you do not come to Gathering Days.  Exceptions to this policy are rare, require a doctor's excuse or other documentation of the reason for the absence, and the permission of the dean.
3.  A final critically integrative reflection paper at the end of each quarter. 25% of final grade. Each low-stakes and final writing assignment in the class will have a rubric for assessment available prior to the due date so that students can see what the evaluative structure is for the assignment. 

From the Masters Student Handbook: 

Because Identity, Power, and Vocation in Community depends on building an intentional community of learners to reach its learning outcomes, students will stay in the same section with the same instructor throughout the academic year. Students must pass all three consecutive quarters (Fall, Winter, and Spring) within a single academic year with the same instructor and cohort in order to complete the required credits for Identity, Power, and Vocation in Community (with passing at graduate level being a C or above). Exceptions to this policy for students with extenuating life circumstances may be approved by the Dean. Extenuating circumstances typically include a death of a loved one, an unforeseen medical emergency of the student or immediate family member, students with granted ADA accommodations, or other substantive changes.

Students may request to take this course pass/fail during the first week of the Fall quarter by emailing the instructor and do not need to provide a justification for their request. 

NOTE: Since this is the winter start section, Fall/Winter quarter are both happening in the Winter quarter, with the course being 4 instead of 2 credits.

Touchstone/Reflective Questions

These Touchstone are meant to help guide your integrative work throughout the work of multiple quarters. This class covers many materials, engages many perspectives, explores many worlds and angles. These questions invite you to delve more deeply into applications of the work of the class personally, spiritually, professionally/vocationally, and relationally.

Identity Questions: Who am I? To which communities do I belong, and to whom am I accountable?  What histories, ideologies, and institutional/material structures have contributed to where I am in the world? What stories, practices, rituals, sense of space/time, rhythms of life ground me and help me to make sense of my life, relationships, vocation, and the world around me? What are the particular strengths and constraints that my embodiment, personal history, community of origin, and social location contribute to my work in the world?  

Power Questions: What is going on in relational dynamics, institutional structures or policies, cultural values or practices that either impacts me particularly deeply or that I don’t notice or have to engage because of my social location? How are the patterns of life in the institutions and communities I participate in structured to build, share, and enact power justly? What would need to change for power to be a constructive rather than an oppressive force within my circles of influence? What are the stories, images, celebrations, relationships, and practices that provide strength and vision to sustain the work of my community? Am I participating in the unjust, coercive, or abusive use of power in my relationships with others? What helps me to be aware of and to exercise the power I have to respond faithfully within my given location at this point in time? 

Vocation Questions: What shared visions of life call me to move and act in the world? Who and how do they call me into being? What current situations, experiences of suffering, visions of wholeness, or groups of people particularly call to me and demand my response? What is the work that I must do to honor my soul’s deepest longings and the world’s deep needs?  What can I not not do in the world and still remain true to myself and my community? Does the work I feel called to integrate my past experience and call me forward into a viable future in relationship with those communities to whom I am accountable? How will I navigate the institutional structures and material realities that present themselves as paths of least resistance while remaining true to my sense of calling and accountable to my communities and our core values? When will I know that a particular season of calling in my life has come to an end, and when it is time to make a transition in my situation?

Community Questions: How is my sense of calling affirmed, challenged or supported by a community of accountability? Who are the friends, mentors, and wise elders to whom I turn to discern the next right steps in my vocational path? How do I listen to and learn from peoples and communities that are different from me, especially those who experience marginalization/oppression where I experience privilege/dominant status? Which communities do I feel called to work to cultivate and sustain as a part of my vocation? Which communities of trust do I seek for support to sustain my work in the world? How do I help shape communities that hold space for others to do the work to which they feel called?

All of the common readings can be found in the Canvas course site.

In addition, each student will choose one of the following texts to read by week seven.  Each is a biography or memoir of a person who has worked for a good while in social justice or ministerial leadership. We will be reading them in light of the touchstone questions for this class, asking questions of identity, power, vocation, and community, as well as how they lived out a life seeking community and justice while navigating institutions and existing power structures. For now, research these a little bit and choose one that speaks to you. You will both be having a paired conversation with a classmate about your literary partner and writing a letter to them.  Here are the choices:

Jan 07, 2020TueIntroductionsdue by 06:59AM
Jan 09, 2020ThuOur Agreements About Learning Togetherdue by 06:59AM
Jan 09, 2020ThuTouchstone Questionsdue by 06:59AM
Jan 11, 2020SatIntroducing Grounding Practicesdue by 06:59AM
Jan 11, 2020SatWhat Grounding Practice Will You Engage?due by 06:59AM
Jan 14, 2020TueIndividualism and Communitydue by 06:59AM
Jan 16, 2020ThuExploring Identitydue by 06:59AM
Jan 16, 2020ThuSocial Locations Chartdue by 06:59AM
Jan 18, 2020SatIntersectionalitydue by 06:59AM
Jan 18, 2020SatChecking in on Grounding Practicesdue by 06:59AM
Jan 21, 2020TueMLK, Jr. Holidaydue by 06:59AM
Jan 23, 2020ThuNaming Forms of Oppression and Injusticedue by 06:59AM
Jan 25, 2020SatUnderstanding Privilege and Oppressiondue by 06:59AM
Jan 28, 2020TueHistorical and Theological Construction of Oppressiondue by 06:59AM
Jan 30, 2020ThuCase Study: The House We Live Indue by 06:59AM
Feb 01, 2020SatA Range of Possible Responses: Denial, Responsibility, Fragility, Solidarity, and Resistancedue by 06:59AM
Feb 06, 2020ThuLinks from Gathering Daysdue by 06:59AM
Feb 13, 2020ThuUnderstanding Microaggressionsdue by 06:59AM
Feb 15, 2020SatOur Urban Dictionary of Current Termsdue by 06:59AM
Feb 15, 2020SatFinal Project Musingsdue by 06:59AM
Feb 18, 2020TueAllies and Solidarity: Problems and Possibilitiesdue by 06:59AM
Feb 20, 2020ThuNavigating Institutional Legaciesdue by 06:59AM
Feb 22, 2020SatCase Study: Pridedue by 06:59AM
Feb 25, 2020TuePause for Integration and Checking Indue by 06:59AM
Feb 25, 2020TueFinal Podcast Assignment Commentsdue by 06:59AM
Feb 27, 2020ThuAwakening to Callingsdue by 06:59AM
Feb 29, 2020SatAnother Way, Continueddue by 06:59AM
Mar 03, 2020TueAnother Way, Final Daydue by 06:59AM
Mar 05, 2020ThuPodcast Proposalsdue by 06:59AM
Mar 07, 2020SatProposal Adjustmentsdue by 06:59AM
Mar 12, 2020ThuParticipation Self-Assessmentdue by 05:59AM
Mar 14, 2020SatFinal Podcastdue by 05:59AM
Mar 25, 2020WedChecking-Indue by 05:59AM
Mar 25, 2020WedGetting Oriented in Spring Quarterdue by 05:59AM
Mar 27, 2020FriPodcast Reflectionsdue by 05:59AM
Apr 01, 2020WedVocational Discernmentdue by 05:59AM
Apr 01, 2020WedGrounding Practices?due by 05:59AM
Apr 03, 2020FriThe Downsides of Vocationdue by 05:59AM
Apr 08, 2020WedCommunal Discernment of Vocationdue by 05:59AM
Apr 08, 2020WedChecking Indue by 05:59AM
Apr 22, 2020WedPower and Communitydue by 05:59AM
Apr 24, 2020FriMy Communities, Spheres of Influence, and Networks of Supportdue by 05:59AM
Apr 24, 2020FriCommunity Mappingdue by 05:59AM
Apr 29, 2020WedCommunity and Ethicsdue by 05:59AM
May 01, 2020FriCommunities of Support and Sexual Ethicsdue by 05:59AM
May 06, 2020WedPreventing and Addressing Violations in your Communitydue by 05:59AM
May 08, 2020FriCommunal Rituals and Grounding Practicesdue by 05:59AM
May 08, 2020FriFinding a Time for Zoom Discussion of Memoirsdue by 05:59AM
May 08, 2020FriImagining a Community of Resistancedue by 05:59AM
May 29, 2020FriManifesto Affirmations and Final Words to One Anotherdue by 05:59AM