Alma Mater Missions


Mission Statements from Clemson and Virginia Tech

Whenever I present about my professional department, VT Engage, I spend 10 minutes on a slide dedicated to our mission statement. I do an in-depth analysis of our mission for two reasons.  The first is that I explain the “why” behind an organization developing a mission statement. I want to impress upon students the importance of being able to succinctly and intentionally describe the work that we find so important. The second reason that I spend so long on the slide containing our mission statement is that I go through the statement word-by-word or phrase-by-phrase with the students.  This is to both frame the rest of my presentation about our work, but also to engage students in critical thinking about the intentionality behind our words, phrases, and descriptions we use to define ourselves and our work. For this blog post comparing and contrasting mission statements, I chose to examine my two Land Grant alma maters: Clemson University and Virginia Tech. The Clemson University Mission can be read here, and Virginia Tech’s can be read here.

The two universities are located within 300 miles of each other in relatively similar environments. Both are nestled within Appalachia though both are also distinctly separate from this culture as well.  Both are medium sized research institutions with a strong engineering program and an equally strong focus on football culture.  I often remark upon how similar both institutions are and this is true of their missions as Land Grants as well. Both mention some form of engagement, service, application of knowledge, and growth and development.  Being passionate about the field of service learning, of course these words and intentions immediately stood out to me.

An aspect of Clemson’s Mission Statement that resonated with me was the following sentence: “The University also is committed to the personal growth of the individual and promotes an environment of good decision making, healthy and ethical lifestyles, and tolerance and respect for others.”  This to me seemed oddly pointed and I’m quite curious as to the rationale behind including it.

An aspect of Virginia Tech’s Mission Statement that stood out to me was the tripartite focus on “teaching and learning, research and discovery, and outreach and engagement.”  From personal experience at the institution, the primary focus of “teaching and learning” in reality does not blend with the last focus of “outreach and engagement”.  I am obviously biased in my strong belief in critical service learning, but it seems to me that the university supports these three statements separately and not necessarily in unison. It is my hope that the university would place more emphasis on service learning and critical engagement with Ut Prosim.

I have appreciated this exercise in reexamining my alma maters, especially now that I have been removed from the primary identity of “student” at each of them for some time. It has been interesting to consider how I have seen the universities live out these missions in various respects but how they may also tout them for their own image or gain.

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