Archive for August, 2014

Mission Accomplished?

Mission statements are constructed to give clear guidance and understanding to readers of an organization’s focus.  Universities are no different in this intent but vary in tone, focus and depth from one another.  I am a research scientist in training, and so I looked at the mission statements of two prestigious research universities.  One is a private university in the United States known for its deep pockets and impressive research capabilities.  The second is a university in England that is one of the oldest of its kind and is known for being a great school of thought, history and research.

The american university kept its statement brief but generally all-encompassing, focusing on research, teaching, and service.  Once this initial focus was set, the university went on to turn this statement into a set of goals where they would act as leaders on the forefront while encouraging creativity to that end.  Surprisingly the university focused on the dissemination of knowledge and learning as a practice outside of the classroom and into the larger community.  This is one way to discuss societal impact and steering without making it sound like a discussion on social skills and gatherings.  The American university concluded its mission statement, goals, and values information stating that they want to complete these goals while valuing intellectual freedom in a way that encourage unfettered inquiry while promoting compassion and equality.  The last word in the statement of values was “excellence.”

The British university had a single sentence as its mission statement of course that ended with “excellence.”  Following that was over a page of “Core Values,” and distinct headings that identified the focus area for each main set of values.  These lists outlined perspectives on education, the relationship of the university with society, the colleges within the university, the staff of the university, and the other aspects of the university from athletics to cultural activities.

The British university’s statement seems very different than the much younger private institution from the United States.  The former took the time and effort to detail nearly every aspect of its habits as though it needed to use its incredible history to justify its size and activities.  The latter of the two seemed to keep things light, affirmative and actionable.  This active attitude imparts a dynamic mission of a university rather than a storied history of how things have always been done.  The differences listed here are interesting and I wonder just how much they carry over into the everyday operations of the missions these universities seek to accomplish.