Nationalism, the future-past, and the new: two mission statements from my previous institutions

For my selection I chose the previous graduate school I attended for my MFA, University of Florida, and my undergraduate institution, Western Kentucky University. The first thing that stood out to me in comparing the two was the notion of nationalism. University of Florida’s mission statement has a nationalistic tone, hence “The Gator Nation,” and “shaping a better future for Florida, the nation and the world.” Western Kentucky University’s mission statement, however, does not, and is in my mind superior in breadth and content. Western Kentucky University prepares “citizen-leaders of a global society.” The difference in meaning and use of words between the two missions is striking, I believe, and marks an important subject up for debate right now: the efficacy of the state.

Secondly, I took notice to the relation time has to each statement. Florida’s ethical substance is the next generation. It is future-oriented. Western Kentucky’s is present in time. True, the university provides “lifelong” support to its faculty and students, but the subject is its current students and faculty, which of course can change. My undergrad “enriches” lives of those “within its reach,” again language suggesting spacial presentism. I guess I find this important, because the future-oriented mission could open the space for a morality of the future-past sort: “all this will have been worth it when things are better.”

One last thought: why do we need to lead and influence the next generation? Isn’t this a more complicated subject than the paternal implication above? Isn’t the new made apparent when the old mold doesn’t fit the new body?

Mission statement 1:

The University of Florida is a comprehensive learning institution built on a land-grant foundation. We are The Gator Nation, a diverse community dedicated to excellence in education and research and shaping a better future for Florida, the nation and the world.

Our mission is to enable our students to lead and influence the next generation and beyond for economic, cultural and societal benefit.

The university welcomes the full exploration of its intellectual boundaries and supports its faculty and students in the creation of new knowledge and the pursuit of new ideas.

  • Teaching is a fundamental purpose of this university at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
  • Research and scholarship are integral to the educational process and to the expansion of our understanding of the natural world, the intellect and the senses.
  • Service reflects the university’s obligation to share the benefits of its research and knowledge for the public good. The university serves the nation’s and the state’s critical needs by contributing to a well-qualified and broadly diverse citizenry, leadership and workforce.

The University of Florida must create the broadly diverse environment necessary to foster multi-cultural skills and perspectives in its teaching and research for its students to contribute and succeed in the world of the 21st century.

These three interlocking elements — teaching, research and scholarship, and service — span all the university’s academic disciplines and represent the university’s commitment to lead and serve the state of Florida, the nation and the world by pursuing and disseminating new knowledge while building upon the experiences of the past. The university aspires to advance by strengthening the human condition and improving the quality of life.

Mission Statement 2:

Western Kentucky University (WKU) prepares students of all backgrounds to be productive, engaged, and socially responsible citizen-leaders of a global society. The University provides research, service and lifelong learning opportunities for its students, faculty, and other constituents. WKU enriches the quality of life for those within its reach.