Are you pursing a career or a calling? UHCL panel explores life choices

February 11, 2019 | Katherine Adams

Are you pursing a career or a calling? UHCL panel explores life choices

College is a time for students to seek and prepare for their path in life. Often, they become fixated on finding a lucrative career instead of considering their life’s real purpose. The Common Reader Program at University of Houston-Clear Lake is an extension of the First-Year Seminar course, in which all new students read a selected book chosen by a committee of faculty, staff and students. The 2018-19 selection is “Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work,” by Dave Isay, and on Feb. 13 at 3 p.m., a panel of faculty and community members will share how they ultimately found their calling in life, ending up in careers very different from what they had trained for in college.

Lecturer in Humanities Anne Gessler, who is also the 2018-19 program director of the Common Reader Committee said, “This book is a collection of short interviews with a dizzying array of people, united in their tenacious pursuit of a meaningful occupations that enlivens their community. Like the interviewees in our common reader, we all take circuitous paths to find our calling, but the critical thinking and communication skills UHCL courses instill in students makes them flexible, creative thinkers able to apply their talents to many different challenges.”

She said that this is why the “Find Your Calling” panel can illustrate to students that a liberal arts education prepares them for a broad range of careers, even if they end up in a profession very different from their major.

Brian Mills, director of Campus Recreation and Wellness at UH-Clear Lake, will be among the panelists.

Mills said that he took a very indirect route to find his life's true calling. He had begun his academic career studying history and government with the intention of going to law school. “I transferred from Stephen F. Austin State University to University of Texas in Austin, and I kept my majors along with the intention of going to law school,” he said. “I needed a job and there were jobs available in intramural sports officiating flag football games. I went through the training and got hired immediately.”

The job, which he’d only taken because he needed money, turned into a passion. “I had all my academic classes in the morning, got done at noon, and I got another job working for the House of Representatives in the State Capitol. But I still refereed games five nights a week and Little League games on the weekends,” he said.

Mills said that during his time at UT, he didn’t really understand what campus recreation was about. “I didn’t use the facilities, do group fitness, or any outdoor adventure. I just worked for intramural sports and my life revolved around sports.”

That’s when he realized that he didn’t belong in law school. “I loved things like Scouts, being outdoors, and intramural sports,” he said. “After graduating, I took a job at Rice University as the coordinator for intramural sports and I loved it. I was then offered a full scholarship at Ohio University for a master’s degree in higher education with a focus on college student personnel.”

His message to students reading Isay’s book, he said, is to question what is it about a career that makes you want to do it? “Money did not motivate me,” Mills said. “I wanted a family and kids and flexibility. If I became a lawyer, I’d have money but nothing else. I couldn’t be passionate about it. I fell into something that sparked a true passion for me, and that’s why I do what I do.”

For more information about the Common Reader Series, visit www.uhcl.edu/academics/first-year-seminar/common-reader.