Constructing Vocational Identity through Virtue

03 Dec 2018

This academic year finds the third class of STI Master’s grant recipients beginning their studies. Jorge Luis Villacís Nieto, a student from Ecuador, provides an overview of his project to research how character development influences vocational identity.

What is your research project about?

Currently there is a growing interest in the scientific study of character and its development. An example of this trend is the work of Martin Seligman and his positive psychology, whose contributions are being considered by educational research and practice. Also, increasingly empirical evidence links some stable qualities of the personality with indicators of professional success and life satisfaction. My research project seeks to know if adolescents or young people who practice and have acquired virtues or character strengths have greater resources to build their vocational or professional identity. Taking as reference the ethics of the virtues of Aristotelian-Thomist orientation, it is proposed that the growth in these strengths of character would be associated with a group of psychological resources that facilitate the construction of vocational identity and promote career success.

Why did you choose this topic?

I studied psychology in Ecuador and worked as a high-school counsellor for a few years there, too. Since I was an undergraduate student, I’ve been interested in how to promote professional motivation in adolescents and young adults. Once I entered the professional field, I noticed the difficulties that seniors in high school had in choosing university programs, and then in completing them once enrolled. For some of these students, being able to secure a place in an institution of higher education was made impossible not because they lacked capacity, but because they lacked motivation. It was not unusual for a teacher to run into an ex-student who could not get into university or find a job.

Why is this research important at this particular point in time?

It seems to me that the growing NEET generation (young people who are "Not in Education, Employment, or Training") is at the same time an individual symptom of lacking professional motivation and a social indicator of an issue to be addressed. According to some sociologists, identity development has acquired peculiar forms in last decades. For Zygmunt Bauman we are living in a world in which identity formation is no longer concerned with “keeping it solid and stable” but rather with “avoiding fixation and keeping options open.” Also, Anthony Giddens proposes new complexities in identity formation when he states that in contemporary society individuals face the dilemma of having no choice but to choose. I think that education must take advantage of this context, and as a way of overcoming negative outcomes, it must open a new possibility of choice to young people, one related to virtue and to the future.

Why did you choose the University of Navarra and what attracted you to this Master’s program?

I have chosen the Master’s in Social Sciences Research at the University of Navarra for several reasons. One is that the University of Navarra manages to combine a realistic and interdisciplinary approach on its research projects with a holistic understanding of the human person and society. I consider these elements essential to attaining solid knowledge and creative solutions to confront recent problems in an ever more globalized world. Also, the Master’s in Social Science Research offers a strong and diverse academic itinerary. Subjects taught in this program cover a broad scope of disciplines. For instance, this year I am taking social theory classes, quantitative data analysis, research project design, and a group of courses related to education and psychology that I have chosen according to my interests and previous studies. In this program there are many opportunities to meet researchers, professors and graduates from different countries and disciplines. Through interacting with these people, different opinions can be shared and common interests are discovered. For these reasons, I find in the Master’s in Social Science Research and in the University of Navarra a great opportunity of preparation to start out in the field of research.