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“Learning My Calling of Storytelling” at Augsburg: Jaelyn Arndt’s Vocation Story

Written by Ellen Weber

Jaelyn Arndt standing on a basketball court smiling at the camera. Have you ever left a meeting and the minute you sign off or walk away you just smile as a wave of gratitude washes over you? That happened to me after meeting with Jaelyn Arndt, an Augsburg alum and current Assistant Director of Communications at the NCAA. 

We at the Christensen Center for Vocation (CCV) were intrigued to hear Jaelyn’s story after a tweet last summer where she answered the question “What is your calling?” She credits the Auggie support system for helping her find her dream. We, at CCV are curious to know the various ways we see vocation lived out on a daily basis in the lives and work of our Augsburg colleagues, students, alums, and our neighbors in the Cedar-Riverside and Seward neighborhoods.

By vocation we mean the ways we are compelled, empowered, challenged, freed, and responsible to show up (individually and collectively) in ways that help our neighbors and neighborhoods thrive. We believe every individual and every institution experiences a vocational tug.

This is a story about how an Augsburg alum became an engaged neighbor through learning about her own vocation. 

Jaelyn graciously agreed to meet with me (Ellen Weber) via Zoom from Indiana and share her story. 

When Jaelyn came to Augsburg to tour, she was guided by our Volleyball Head Coach, Jane Becker and Assistant Coach, Jennifer Jacobs. She walked away from that tour years ago thinking, “These are my people!” So after her senior year at Washburn, she started at Augsburg and was part of the volleyball team.  

Jaelyn Arndt on the volleyball court with two others at Augsburg. Throughout her time at Augsburg, Jaelyn leaned on her volleyball teammates and staff like family. “Because it is a D3 school, people actually cared about me and my wellbeing.” The volleyball team was a place where Jaelyn learned who people are. “Before the season started, our coach would give us working packets about our teammates. We had workshops where we learned each other’s love languages, how we like to be approached, and how we give feedback. We started our practices sharing what we were grateful for or sharing how our day was. It mattered who we are and that we knew who actually was on the court with us.” 

It was clear from speaking with Jaelyn that she felt that the volleyball community honored her whole being, not just the athlete part of her identity. This is the power of an expansive definition of vocation. That it is who we are and how we show up in the world that is our vocation.

She broke her ankle after her second year, and she found herself asking the question, “Who am I?” This isn’t uncommon for someone to experience when we think about our vocation as one thing, one career, or one role. That ends up being all that we think we are, so when we all of a sudden can’t perform that one role, we can end up in an identity crisis. 

After Jaelyn’s injury, she decided to go to chapel more often on Wednesday evenings, which opened her ears to deep listening. It was there that she learned about the language around calling and vocation at Augsburg. She learned that who one is is different than what one does and, as she explains, “What matters is how I show up because who I am is with me all the time.”

Jaelyn shared that Augsburg taught her about how to be in the world. She learned how to show up in different spaces with all types of people and the importance of creating a welcoming space for all. Throughout her interactions in all sorts of departments, (Jaelyn worked in lots of departments throughout her time here!) Jaelyn learned how to accompany those around her by listening to their stories and finding ways to share those stories with the world. She learned how she is called to show up as neighbor through storytelling. 

Jaelyn Arndt fixing a camera on a tripod for a video recordingJaelyn first realized her calling of storytelling when she went to Australia to study abroad. She began sharing her own stories via Visco and learned that she loved it and was good at it. Since she graduated from Augsburg she had a few different jobs sharing stories in non-profit work and coaching volleyball. Then in January of 2022, she started her dream job of working at the NCAA. She thinks about who is highlighted in the story and who is telling the story. She knows that counter-narratives matter. While she was talking with me, I could feel in my own body Jaelyn’s passion and energy for her own vocation of digital storytelling. 

I asked Jaelyn for her advice for folks uncovering their vocation. She came up with the following:

  • There is not one path, but it is okay to get off the path!
  • Chase what fills your cup. 
  • Be patient as there is no checkbox for life!
  • When you are living your authentic life your life will feel so filled.  
  • Look for healthy environments: positive good people allow you to put your best work forward. 

Jaelyn sitting outside the NCAA National OfficeJaelyn shared in the beginning of our time together a quote that impacts her work and life that is important to her. It is from Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” It reminds her that relationships matter. 

It was clear from start to finish of our interview that Jaelyn cares how she shows up in the world for her neighbor. She is genuine in her interest in hearing the stories of those around her.  She is passionate about finding ways to share those stories with the world, especially sharing stories that counter and challenge systems of oppression. She reinforced how Augsburg is a huge part of her identity today, and that everything comes back to it. She is grateful to the Augsburg community and the way she was taught about vocation and how to show up in the world as herself. 

I am grateful for the time and story that Jaelyn shared with me as I am exploring storytelling myself. I hope we can continue to highlight people like Jaelyn who strive to show up each day as their authentic selves in all that they do.