Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Sue Poppink

Second Advisor

Dr. Ramona Lewis

Third Advisor

Dr. Mark St. Martin


Calling, spirituality, emerging adults, vocational guidance, career services, undergraduates


Recent studies in vocational psychology and student development have discussed the fact that many college students value spirituality, and that a spiritual calling is positively associated with desirable work traits (Astin, Astin, & Lindholm, 2011; Chickering, 2006; Dik & Duffy, 2012; Duffy & Dik, 2013; Hunter, Dik, & Banning, 2010). What has yet to be deeply explored is how undergraduates at a public university who believe they are called explore careers and make vocational decisions.

The purpose of this phenomenology was to describe and interpret the lived experiences of emerging adults at a public university who believe they are called by a Higher Power, who have explored careers, and who have tried to find a fit between a calling and a career. My research questions were designed to capture the lived experiences of spiritual emerging adults who were exploring careers as undergraduates and who were preparing to enter the workforce as adults.

Participants were recruited using purposeful sampling at a small Midwestern public university. Data were primarily gathered using open-ended questions during face-to-face interviews. I interviewed 12 participants who were between the ages of 20–23, who were currently attending the university or who had graduated within the past six months, who believed they were called by a Higher Power, who had explored careers, and who had tried to find a fit between what they believed about calling and what they had learned from exploring careers.

The major findings of my study showed that emerging adults who believe they are called experience a calling as originating from a source external to the self (i.e., a Higher Power), that they respond to this external source with faith, and that faith initiates and sustains an intentional career decision-making process. The participants relied on faith to identify and work toward subjective goals through a career decision-making process that explored issues related to altruism, self-interest, psychology, and community. These findings suggest that career services providers who guide spiritual emerging adults should use a narrative lens, be familiar with calling themes and decision-making, and recognize an individual’s need for authenticity.

My study affirms and adds to the student and career development literature on emerging adulthood (Arnett, 2014), the exploratory career phase (Super, 1957), meaning and career (Super, 1976), career construction (Savickas, 2005), student development and authenticity (Chickering, 2006), calling (Dik & Duffy, 2012), protean career orientation (Hall, 2004), student development and spirituality (Astin et al., 2011; Small, 2015), and vocational decision-making (Parsons, 1909). Areas for further research include longitudinal studies, studies with diverse groups, an examination of bias toward spirituality in public higher education, job readiness of and market demand for spiritual graduates, and calling among emerging adults who do not have access to universities.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access