Purpose & Identity

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Purpose & Identity

More and more we’re coming to realize the importance of helping college students develop their sense of personal mission, purpose, and identity: who they are, what they care about, what they aspire to do in the world. Understanding these things leads to more engaged and productive professionals, healthier relationships with family and friends, and deeper engagement in community and society. But that work doesn’t happen in a bubble. Rather, it happens most powerfully in and through community—through experiences and conversations with others that help students reflect to themselves and with one another. Ask Big Questions helps students have those conversations—reflecting on who they are, for whom and for what they are responsible, what they can contribute to the world, and what we can do together.

connection purpose identity
“To call on purpose is not to ask colleges and universities to go beyond their core mission; it is to ask that they intentionally and systematically implement their already-existing pledge — to produce purposeful, globally engaged, citizens and to do so with broader inclusivity than they may ever have done before.”
Tim Clydesdale
The Purposeful Graduate

Read About Our Work on Purpose & Identity

Colby College Ask Big Questions

Colby College implemented an Ask Big Questions conversation series, which led to measurable gains in students’ sense of purpose and vocation.

University of Toronto Ask Big Questions

The University of Toronto is one of Canada's leading universities, and one of the largest in North America, with over 84,000 students on three campuses.

Central Synagogue Ask Big Questions

Ask Big Questions worked with two large congregations to develop small, personal communities of members who meet regularly to build relationships, learn and study, and reflect on their lives together.

Sample Conversation Guide - For Whom Are We Responsible?

What does it mean to be responsible? Who is responsible for us?

Eboo Patel Ask Big Questions

I am a great admirer of the way Ask Big Questions helps students of all backgrounds to reflect together on questions we all share, and to build community by engaging our diversity. Ask Big Questions and IFYC share a common mission, and I am proud to call ABQ a partner.

Eboo PatelFounder and President
Interfaith Youth Core
Parker J. Palmer Ask Big Questions

Ask Big Questions is doing vital work to help American colleges and universities restore the soul of higher education. Through community conversations about Big Questions, students develop the habits of the heart that can help renew campus life and our larger civic fabric.

Parker J. PalmerFounder and Senior Partner
Center for Courage and Renewal
Sharon Daloz Parks Ask Big Questions

Our colleges and universities are essential training grounds for young adults to enter into their lives as citizens. But they often need help to do that work. Ask Big Questions is an outstanding initiative to aid colleges and universities do their transformative work.

Sharon Daloz ParksDirector
Leadership for the New Commons
listening student ask big questions

By the end of the conversation, I felt like I could carry on an interesting conversation with any of the people sitting before me. Because of that openness, we students were able to discard the 'prove the other person wrong' card. It enabled us to access a much more important skill, one with which we are losing touch: listening, with the sole intent of understanding.

University of Toronto student

Ask Big Questions helped me to learn how to listen to others both inside and outside of my communities and truly inspired me to become a deeper, more understanding, more giving and more complex person.

University of Michigan

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