Mission Statements – Marketing vs. Mission

I selected the two mission statements where I received my undergraduate and masters degree, Morgan State University (MSU) and Columbia University (CU).


Morgan State University serves the community, region, state, nation, and world as an intellectual and creative resource by supporting, empowering and preparing high-quality, diverse graduates to lead the world. The University offers innovative, inclusive, and distinctive educational experiences to a broad cross-section of the population in a comprehensive range of disciplines at the baccalaureate, master’s, doctoral, and professional degree levels. Through collaborative pursuits, scholarly research, creative endeavors, and dedicated public service, the University gives significant priority to addressing societal problems, particularly those prevalent in urban communities.


Columbia University is one of the world’s most important centers of research and at the same time a distinctive and distinguished learning environment for undergraduates and graduate students in many scholarly and professional fields. The University recognizes the importance of its location in New York City and seeks to link its research and teaching to the vast resources of a great metropolis. It seeks to attract a diverse and international faculty and student body, to support research and teaching on global issues, and to create academic relationships with many countries and regions. It expects all areas of the university to advance knowledge and learning at the highest level and to convey the products of its efforts to the world.

My Thoughts: Being that MSU is an HBCU, I expected to see wording that identified their primary audience/client [African Americans]. If you didn’t know any better, MSU’s mission statement would be a standard statement for a TWI (Traditionally White Institutions).  I guess the use of the word “urban” was supposed to capture the minority mandate.  Unlike MSU’s statement, CU’s statement reads as a sales pitch.  If I were to search for a place to learn, CU’s angle would lure me in more so than MSU’s approach.  CU’s statement clearly mentions that the university is located in New York City.  If your institution exists in such a place, you want to make that known to the reader.  MSU is located in a less desirable place, Baltimore, MD, and there was no mention of the city nor the state.

This exercise raises one question that I welcome others to try and answer:  Can a university strike the right balance between stating their mission and marketing the institution?




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3 Responses to Mission Statements – Marketing vs. Mission

  1. abramds

    Hello Henry, I enjoyed reading about your thoughts on the two institution’s mission statements. I believe that if a mission is truly focused on the core goals that an institution holds, it should not have to balance the honesty of the statement with the desire to market the institution. As Katie stated, if the values of a person reading the statement align with the mission, it should naturally resonate with them. People have an innate ability to sense unauthentic statements and I believe it is more important for a university to honestly portray the culture they would like to promote and the goals they are pursuing than focusing on marketing themselves. Just my thoughts though, I also understand that we live in a world in which we are always marketing ourselves in one way or another.

  2. Katie Biddle

    Thanks, Henry! I love the question you pose for us!I think a university’s mission statement is naturally a marketing tool, though I don’t believe that marketing should be the first consideration in developing or updating a mission statement. I think honesty and utility should be primary concerns when it comes to mission statement development. Ideally what follows then is that the mission statement communicates to the student/employee for whom the university is a “fit” that the institution will be a good place for them. I don’t think that a mission statement should ask anything of the reader (i.e. – “Please believe that this is a great place!”) but should rather communicate clearly and accurately what the institution is all about so that the message resonates with those for whom the university really would be a great place.

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