The 2017 Composition Common Read–Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work

The Composition Common Read committee has selected Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work as our 2016-2017 text.

Callings is a compilation of 53 interviews with people who tell stories about how they came to do the work they do and how it brings meaning to their lives. The interviews were recorded as part of StoryCorps founder and author Dave Isay’s national oral history project.

About The Book

The book’s five sections–Dreamers, Generations, Healers, Philosophers and Groundbreakers– introduce readers to people of all ages in all walks of life who found their purpose in a career.

Some talk of their journey to find work in traditional professions as first-responders, nurses, doctors, teachers, clergy, factory workers, contractors and entrepreneurs.

Others–a sculptor, a blues singer, an artist, and an actor–discuss rewarding work in the humanities.

Still others share interesting, slice-of-life  stories about choosing less-common jobs: the street-corner astronomer, the salmon slicer, the beekeeper, the ink-removal specialist, the video-game inventor, and the bridgetender.

Though their earnings and workload vary, the people profiled in Callings share a common feeling of gratitude and happiness at finding, and sometimes falling into, a job where they make a difference.

Callings and the First-Year Student

Callings has much to offer our Composition students, who are more often than not, still deciding what they want to pursue as a major and career.

As these students discover themselves, graduate and find jobs, they will, like many of the people featured in the book, need to find meaning in whatever work that they do.

Even those who have declared a major may change it. According to the National Center for Education Statistics,  80%  percent of American college students change their major at least once. Data shows that on average, college students change their major at least three times (1).

Many of our young students have felt pressured  to declare a major, and may have made that decision in haste. They may struggle with feelings of failure when they realize that they aren’t interested in their chosen field.

For all of these students and those who come into UT undecided and more likely to dropout of the university or transfer (2), Callings may serve as a reassuring reminder that we don’t have to know what our “calling” is in order to find it. While some of the people profiled in the book knew what they wanted to do early in life, and found great satisfaction in a job, others pursued other careers and transitioned into the work they now do.

Callings in the Classroom

The Composition Common Read committee has a lot of ideas for using this text in our classrooms this fall. Visit our Common Read Blackboard page for assignment ideas, supplementary content, and more.   We also invite instructors to share their own ideas with us at the Blackboard site.

Desk copies are on order. Instructors interested in participating in the Composition Common Read should contact a committee member by university email.

(1)--NCES First-Time, Post Secondary Student Data, 2013.
(2)--Gordon, Virginia. The Undecided College Student: An Academic And Career Advising