Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication


Date of this Version

Spring 5-4-2012


Warneke, K. L. (2012). 'You just know': A phenomenological study examining how to recognize when you are called. Doctoral dissertation, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Human Sciences (Leadership Studies), Under the Supervision of Professors James King and Gina Matkin. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Kevin L. Warneke


This phenomenological study describes the experiences of 12 residents of a Midwestern community who were identified by their peers as possibly possessing a calling. The central research question was: What are the experiences that lead to feelings of strong commitment in their lives? Calling was defined as a summons, which originates outside of one’s self, to serve a cause that betters humanity. Participants described the strong commitments they felt in their lives and explained their origins. Five themes emerged from the semi-structure interviews: (a) “You have to be asked and respond to being asked” – the role of a mentor in one’s calling, (b) the call to service: “It just happened.”, (c) calls can come at unexpected times, (d) answering a call can be rewarding – but those rewards aren’t always obvious, and (e) secular callings can come from a religious calling. The essence of recognizing one’s calling was the realization that a calling can come at a moment’s notice – even if it isn’t immediately recognized – and the source of this call can be a summons to serve – society, and one’s God, family, community and profession.

Advisors: James King and Gina Matkin