Lilly Summer Discernment Institute

The Lilly Summer Discernment Institute (LSDI) was established in 2002 by a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. to the University of the South. Thanks almost entirely to estate gifts from William Spencer, C’41, and Barlow Henderson, the LSDI now has established endowments that will enable the program to continue indefinitely.

Students applying to the LSDI are those interested in exploring ordained ministry and other vocations that embrace service as a way of life. They research and develop proposals for summer placements in parishes and service organizations, placements that will enable them to see their passions in action and visualize how their gifts and life might intersect with this work. 

The Summer Discernment Institute operates within the Christian tradition, but invites interns to reflect on concepts of vocation and service from a variety of religious and ethical perspectives. The Institute solicits applications from all students interested in participating in such reflection, regardless of their religious or ethical orientation.

Students accepted into the program travel to Sewanee for a week preceding their internship for four days of classes, orientation, speakers, discussion groups, theological reflection, and group activities which prepare them to experience their summer through the lens of vocation, and to build a support group of students facing like-minded questions. Interns then travel to their internship site for six - eight weeks of intentional exposure to the life and work of their chosen church/organization. The summer internship ends with a follow-up week in Sewanee that incorporates a silent meditational day in the beginning and formal presentations by all participants on their experiences, reflection, and discussions of significant learning.

Internship opportunities through the LSDI are broken down into one of two tracks:

  • Track 1 — Parish-Based Internships: These internships involve students participating in the religious life of the parish community in addition to engaging in parish-sponsored outreach. Students can either find their own placements or contact the LSDI Director for assistance in finding a placement. Both Sewanee and non-Sewanee students alike can apply for these internships.
  • Track 2 — Independent Internships: These internships provide an opportunity for students to explore service as a way of life. Most students find their own placements, though some organizations are listed as possible sites. These internships are reserved for Sewanee students only.

Students are paid stipends of $400/week for up to eight weeks at an internship site. Work at their site is expected to be 35 to 40 hours per week for up to eight weeks.

All 2015 Interns must be available for the residential On-Campus Program Dates in Sewanee which are mandatoryMay 11 - May 14 and August 3 - 6, 2015.

All applications are due by March 2, 2015.

For more information, contact Rob McAlister at or 931.598.1251.