What It Means

Why Purposeful Work?

(From left to right) Daniel Oyolu, Amanda Moore and Matt Neckes at Kerry Park in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle on July 15, 2014. (Photo by Patrick Hagerty)

Preparing students for lives of meaningful work has always been a powerful dimension of the liberal arts education we provide at Bates, but in today’s world this goal needs to be pursued with greater intentionality and effectiveness.

Students graduating in the next decades are likely to hold a number of different jobs over the course of their careers, many of which have yet to be invented. The liberal arts have long been regarded as strong preparation for a lifetime of flexible and creative engagement with a changing world. With the increasing velocity of change and demands of the global marketplace for talent and employment, however, we need to build on the fundamentals of the liberal arts with a mission-based, but targeted and pragmatic, approach to equipping our students with the knowledge, skills, and values they will need to pursue meaningful work.

What sort of work is “purposeful”?

We believe work is purposeful when it contributes meaning to an individual’s life and has relevance to the greater community. Work that is meaningful for one person might not be for someone else. What’s important is that students be armed with the skills, mindsets and mentors that will help them make their own determinations about what will bring meaning to their lives.

What do students get out of Purposeful Work?

Through Purposeful Work, students learn how to ask big questions – Who am I, really? What am I good at? What kind of work do I want to do? What can I contribute to the world? And they learn how to recognize the answers to those questions as they take shape in their lives.

Owning your life, owning your work

Purposeful Work at Bates is about helping students align who they are and what they want to do. In addition to thinking deeply about life and work, Bates students develop the capacities to work hard, and to press forward when they meet setbacks. The more students are able to match their work with their authentic interests and talents, the less work feels like work, and the more it simply feels like a natural part of a satisfying and meaningful life.