Called to Help Students Find Their Calling: Why This Alum Calls Iliff Home
By Heather Munro
(DENVER) — It’s called a “calling” for a reason. Unlike taking a job, being called to ministry means you have a strong urge not just to work, but to live a particular way of life. And, with that singular desire comes many, many questions.
Should you take the more traditional path and become a pastor? Or use your talents to minister to hospice patients or prisoners? Or join the non-profit arena to help change the world for the better?
Thankfully, as an Iliff School of Theology (Iliff) alumnus and current employee of the school, Rev. Vince Tango, associate director of admissions and director of its Journey Master of Divinity (MDIV) Program, is uniquely qualified to be a resource for students searching for these answers.
“Iliff is absolutely the only place where I get to use all of my gifts,” he explains. “And I’m not the only one who works here to say that. Being on staff here is an amazing place to be.”
In 2003, Tango enrolled as an MDIV student and in 2006 was hired in an entry level admissions position in Iliff’s Student Services Department. Not long after, his natural ability to connect with students led to a promotion to coordinator of admissions and then later as the associate director of admissions. He found he loved helping students with what can sometimes be an overwhelming process of choosing a vocational path.
While working in admissions, Tango continued to pursue a masters of divinity degree from Iliff. When he finished his degree in 2009, he was ordained by the United Church of Christ in the Iliff Chapel on campus.
As an ordained minister, Tango officiates marriage ceremonies, but he can’t imagine leaving Iliff to become a full-time minister.
As is the case with so many callings, a unique opportunity to serve appeared in 2010. Tango was asked to lead Iliff’s Journey MDIV Program, a unique program that offers students a hybrid – online and on campus – learning experience. It was then when he realized the extent of his call to minister to students.
In this role, Tango not only oversees the popular program, but is at the forefront of a changing theological education landscape. Iliff was one of the first divinity schools in the country to offer this distinctive program, which allows students to pursue their ministerial dreams without relocating to Denver to study. And, Tango helped to create one of the most successful programs in the country!
As you might expect, not all students pursuing a MDIV degree are sure where their calling will lead them. For some, ministry is the natural choice. For others, chaplaincy within a hospice or prison makes sense. Still others gravitate towards becoming pastoral counselors who act as change agents in non-profit work.
Tango, along with the other members of the department, acts as a vital resource for these students.
“The best part of what I do is helping students discern their call,” he added. “It brings me joy when a student’s face lights up with a direction. I am so grateful to be with them during this transformational time of their lives.”
Tango is currently pursuing a doctorate of higher education at the University of Denver, conveniently located next door to Iliff’s campus. The degree will give him the opportunity to round out his administrative skills by studying policy, student affairs and curriculum trends.
But don’t expect him to leave Iliff when he completes his doctorate. The spiritual, emotional and academic challenges of helping students find their way is truly his vocation.
“This is really a wonderful place to be every day. I’m drawn to be in the company of smart, passionate, involved people who care, and think deeply about issues that matter in the world,” he remarked. “Simply put, Iliff is my community.”