What if college students declared a mission, not a major?  This was one of the core ideas from the Stanford 2025 project about the future of living and learning.

What if college students declared a mission, not a major?  This was one of the core ideas from the Stanford 2025 project about the future of living and learning.


Across the country, there is a growing movement to develop a sense of meaning and purpose in adolescent education. This is happening in a variety of forms and programming.

  • Noble Impact is an Arkansas-based organization helping high school students discover a sense of purpose through in-depth programming, both in-school and out-of-school.
  • A partnership between IDEO and Riverdale called the Purpose Project includes a tool used to help young people reflect on their own meaning making.
  • Stanford 2025 was a Stanford d.school led project to re-imagine the future of learning and living at Stanford, including a focus on Purpose Learning.
  • The Future Project places “Dream Directors” in low-income high schools to help spark and nurture the dreams and potential of high school students across the country.
  • Echoing Green launched a Work on Purpose program, including a Purpose Curriculum, that helps college and post-college students evolve and develop their own sense of purpose.


Last year, Echoing Green hosted a Purpose Convening in New York to bring together leaders in the burgeoning field of purpose education. As they noted at the convening, purpose education is a growing field. They also warned against the word “purpose” becoming a catch-all, or losing its meaning as it grows in popularity around the country. At Project Wayfinder, we want to be a part of this movement that is honoring the depth of purpose work and all the possibilities for young people to discover their own sense of purpose.


our point of view on purpose

We believe that being a “social entrepreneur” is not the only way towards a path to purpose. We respect the multiple paths that young people can take on their path to purpose - becoming an artist, a preacher, a sculptor, or small business owner. At the heart of it, a sense of wayfinding is essential to our viewpoint; it’s about not viewing purpose as aligned with a narrow version of success and achievement that dominates popular culture.

We hope that Project Wayfinder contributes towards the larger conversation about not conflating achievement with purpose.

Many purposeful people achieve great things, but many people who achieve big things do not have a sense of purpose.


We do believe that every young person has a unique sense of purpose that can be unlocked with mentoring, nurturing, and exposure to different people and life experiences. We believe that every young person has a sense of purpose that can be discovered, not achieved or handed to them. Purpose is also not a “single” destination - people have multiple purposes over the course of their lives, but research shows that once a person taps into this sense of purpose on one project, they are much more likely to bring it to their next project.

We want to develop wayfinders that value their own journey over the pressures put on them by our culture or parents about rampant achievement for its own sake. And for those students that do not feel a sense of aliveness, we want our content and programming to create sparks of interest to help develop a young person’s sense of purpose.


further reading

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