To see the diversity in mission statements, I chose two universities that vary in structure. NC State University is a large, public land grant university and is a part of the University of North Carolina (UNC) system. Mars Hill University is a small, private liberal arts university in the mountains of North Carolina. NC State is located in Raleigh, North Carolina, which is the second largest city in the state. Mars Hill University is located in the small town of Mars Hill, North Carolina on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
NC State University’s mission statement reads:
“As a research-extensive land-grant university, North Carolina State University is dedicated to excellent teaching, the creation and application of knowledge, and engagement with public and private partners. By uniting our strength in science and technology with a commitment to excellence in a comprehensive range of disciplines, NC State promotes an integrated approach to problem solving that transforms lives and provides leadership for social, economic, and technological development across North Carolina and around the world.”
This statement was adopted in 2011 after being approved by both the NC State University Board of Trustees and the UNC Board of Governors. I find NC State’s mission relatively comprehensive. It emphasizes research and teaching through problem solving and engagement with its public and private partners. These partnerships are critical as NC State is located in the capitol on North Carolina and in Research Triangle Park, a place for leading industry companies. What is missing to me is the third component of a land grant’s mission of extension or outreach. As the home of Cooperative Extension in the state, it should be reflected in their mission. Other than that critique, their mission is fitting for a university of its type. Having to get the approval of the UNC System for their individual mission statement is an added layer that other unaffiliated universities do not have to go through. There are pros and cons to this affiliation. In one way, having the alignment with a system can tighten an individual university’s mission in order to reflect the larger mission of a group of universities shaping higher education in the state. However, it is another barrier to get approval from this system.
Mars Hill University’s mission statement reads:
“Mars Hill University, an academic community rooted in the Christian faith, challenges and equips students to pursue intellectual, spiritual, and personal growth through an education that is: grounded in a rigorous study of the Liberal Arts, connected with the world of work, committed to character development, to service, and to responsible citizenship in the community, the region, and the world.”
This statement is quite older as it was adopted in 1997. What’s unique about Mars Hill’s also provides a religious identity statement. It is, in a way, an expansion of their mission statement that details and defines their mission through their religious perspective. It is a lengthier statement. This mission statement places more focus on the student and the development of their students. I think it demonstrates what they expect of their students and academic community in terms of growth and they describe how that growth and development will be achieved. In that respect, it is prescriptive and detailed.
These two universities reflect an older mission statement (1997) in contrast to a more contemporary one in 2011. One question to consider is when should a mission statement be updated? Is a mission statement supposed to stand the test of time? My own views are mixed. While I believe a strong, guiding mission statement should hold up over the decades, there is also nothing wrong in a university reflected that the world is changing rapidly. They may wish to update their mission statement to reflect new trends in education and the world. How should universities navigate this question about the longevity of mission statements?