Lilly Endowment Gives Willamette $500,000

Willamette University has received a $500,000 matching grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc. to extend the Lilly Project at Willamette University, a unique program that offers programs, projects and opportunities for students to identify their life's vocational and spiritual calling.

The three-year grant, which will be matched by the University, will assist the program in securing funding that will make it self-sustaining. The Lilly Project was originally funded in 2001 by a $2 million grant from Lilly Endowment.

Associate Chaplain Karen Wood says the Lilly Project is about much more than religion. "The Lilly Project is focused on helping students discern what matters to them; what their values, gifts and commitments are; and how to make all those things match."

The Lilly Project, says Wood, dovetails perfectly with the University's motto, "Not unto ourselves alone are we born." "The Lilly Project offers even more opportunities for students to do community service and to think about what the experience meant to them, how it changed their world view and how it might shape the rest of their lives," she says. "One of the primary purposes of a liberal arts education is to help students figure out who they are and what they want to do with their lives. The Lilly Project provides perfect opportunities to do that."

The Lilly Project at Willamette University has provided numerous opportunities to students, faculty and the wider community in 14 different program areas including community service projects, summer internships, research projects, faculty grants, art exhibits and speakers.

Since the program's inception, more than 500 Willamette students have performed community service and then reflected on their experience to help clarify their vocational goals. Some students have spent their spring breaks painting houses on Indian reservations; serving communities in Mississippi; or cleaning up poor neighborhoods in Chicago. Others have created their own community service projects. Another 60 students have attended retreats that offer intensive opportunities to look at their values and beliefs and bring those values into their vocational choices.

A number of University faculty have taken advantage of Lilly grants to develop courses or materials to help students explore their values and vocations.

The public has benefited too. Hundreds of community members have joined students, faculty and staff at art exhibits, convocations and speaking engagements funded by the Lilly Project. The Willamette community and the public packed Hudson Hall to hear Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Chris Hedges speak about being a war correspondent with deep commitment and faith. This year, Anne Lamott talked about what it means to be both faithful and politically progressive.

The new matching grant will help put the program on a more stable financial footing. "This grant will enable us to do the fundraising that will allow these good projects to continue," Wood says. "It offers the opportunity for the Lilly Project to become more embedded into the life of the university."

Some of the new funds will also pay for speakers and other programs at Kaneko Commons, Willamette's live-learn residential commons scheduled to open in fall 2006. "This grant will help pay for new community service and reflection programming that will help students explore their callings," says Wood. "We want the Lilly Project to be an integral part of Kaneko Commons right off the bat."