Mission Probable


First, here are the links to the two different mission statements. I will refer to specific excerpts that are interesting to guide my reflections.

Pennsylvania State University:

University of Texas at Austin:

In order to compare the intricacies of Land-Grant University mission statements, I picked two that are of similar sizes, both of which were on my short list of graduate schools. Both of these institutions are in the United States, however one is in the northeast in Pennsylvania, the other is in the south in Texas. UT Austin is a university that is part of a larger UT campus system, as is PSU.

When reading the mission statements, it became obvious that a mission statement is not so simple. Both universities had other types of character and value statements that meshed with their mission statements. For example, Penn State has a public character statement and UT Austin has a core values statement. Both of these are on the pages linked above.

When reading the mission statements, both Penn State and UT Austin highlight the fact that the work and research done is to spread or disseminate that knowledge with others. This means that research is very important at the universities, both receiving and and creating attention for the institution. This also takes the form of public service at both universities.

These universities also mention the economics of introducing new information and providing back to the state. UT Austin specifically mentions this and Penn State infers it through the language of the statement.

Both UT Austin and Penn State describe the learning environment that is qualitatively present is for both undergraduates and graduates. If you look at the language used, UT Austin talks about baccalaureate and doctoral levels, while PSU terms the different levels as undergraduate, graduate, and professional.

Continuing this method, we find that the UT Austin uses more generalized language such as “[…] advancement of society through research, creative activity, scholarly inquiry, and the development of new knowledge.” where PSU begins to list areas of inquiry: “[…] development, global understanding, and progress in professional practice through the expansion of knowledge and its applications in the natural and applied sciences, social sciences, arts, humanities, and the professions.”

What can be drawn from these statements is actually the attitude of the school as a whole. By looking at the language that is present in the mission statements, we find that both of the universities believe that they provide good, knowledgeable students. The terms used for different subjects as described above, suggest that UT Austin falls in the range of a “Public Ivy” school and PSU is a state research institution.

This difference is not negative, it simply is a difference. Depending on your own attitude towards education this distinction can be important. This same type of perceived difference is found in many states, for example Virginia Tech and UVA, as well as PSU and the University of Pennsylvania.

Finally, it is important to realize that there are many different levels of the 4400 higher education institutions, even within different categories there are a spectrum of university styles and missions.



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