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In their lively and entertaining weekly discussion of issues related to higher education, KUT’s Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger explore the topics of higher education, lifelong learning, and exercising the brain. Ed and Jennifer practice what they preach, too, by introducing math puzzlers and brain teasers to keep listeners on their toes.

Higher Ed: Don't Be 'Intellectually Stubborn' - Learning To Discern Your True Calling

Many people may regard "vocation" as a job, employment or occupation. But the word's Latin root (vocare meaning "to call") speaks to a deeper definition related to a passion or true calling. In this episode of the KUT podcast "Higher Ed," Southwestern UniversityPresident Dr. Ed Burger and KUT's Jennifer Staytonexplore the concept of a "calling" in life, and how we can learn to be attuned to that message within us.

When I was an undergraduate student in college, I was certain I was going to become a psychologist. When Ed was an undergraduate student, he was certain he was going to become a lawyer.

Well, neither one of us followed the path we thought we were going to pursue. What happened along the way? Did something go wrong for each of us?

Quite the contrary, Ed would argue. He says one of the ways to discern a true "calling" in life is to remain open to opportunities when they present themselves.

"We can't be so intellectually stubborn as to think that the thought we had when we were eight years old is also going to be the exact same thought we're going to have when we're forty-five. That's just not right," says Ed. "The point of a high-impact educational experience that's all about intellectual and personal growth is about challenging those basic assumptions."

If this exercise of discernment feels like a struggle, Ed is quick to point out there is not necessarily only one path for each of us waiting to be discovered.

"You might pick the right one that generates enormous happiness. You might pick another one that generates a lot of happiness, and maybe there's another thing you could have done that would have made you more happy or more satisfied," Ed says. "You have to come to peace with all of that and realize there are there multiple pathways."

At the heart of determining one's true calling?

"Optimize your own personal satisfaction," Ed believes.

That may sounds good in theory, but what about the reality of earning a living and paying bills? Listen to the full episode for further discussion on the tension between pursuing a passion and the realities of life.

No puzzler this week! It is still on an extended Spring Break but will return next week.

This episode was recorded on Feb. 23, 2019.

For all of the Higher Ed episodes, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.

Jennifer Stayton is the local host for NPR's "Morning Edition" on KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on X @jenstayton.
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