This is an interesting study, and I find it difficult to stop at just two. I completed my undergraduate degree in the 1980’s during the middle of the college boom, when it seemed like almost everyone – including me – was at least applying to college, even if they didn’t wind up going or completing a degree program. As a parent I became acutely aware of the vast differences in the mission and outcomes of universities/colleges in the US through the lens of my children’s search for schools. Where I was more interested in the majesty of the place and the vast number of opportunities available, their interests were more cerebral: where did they feel like they fit, what were the opportunities within certain fields of study, and how did the school support its students in achieving their aspirations?
I became curious about whether colleges and universities had change their perspective on students. Were the objectives of state schools still primarily focused on developing young adults to fill existing jobs? Did small liberal arts colleges still focus on broad, philosophically-based educational goals? Were the ivy league schools still preparing upper crust students for leadership roles that would span their familial responsibilities with the larger needs of society?
So this assignment offers an opportunity to touch on this issue through this particular assignment: to compare the mission statements from two colleges/universities. As I thought about which two to focus on, I looked at several. And my question was: are there really major differences that can be characterized based upon the space the school fills?
Interesting enough, my two selected school don’t seem to differ tremendously in their missions, while they seem to be radically different in almost every other aspect of their function.
Originally founded as a teachers college in 1899, Appalachian State joined the University of North Carolina system in 1971 and broadened its programs to include 174 undergraduate majors in five colleges. At-a-glance, the university spans programs in humanities, social sciences, math, natural sciences, fine and applied arts, music, health sciences, business, and education.
The University enrolls approximately 18,000 undergraduates and another 1,600 graduate students
It’s mission statement is fairly substantial, and reads:
Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as engaged global citizens who understand their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. Our location in the distinctive Appalachian mountain town of Boone, North Carolina, profoundly shapes who we are. As a constituent institution of the University of North Carolina, we fulfill our core academic missions of teaching, scholarship, and service in ways that honor our geography and heritage.
We bring people together in inspiring ways. The transformational Appalachian experience develops individuals who are eager to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, to embrace diversity and difference, and to become contributing members of society.
We create rich environments where students can thrive. Our students are educated broadly and are simultaneously equipped with strong disciplinary knowledge. Academic learning occurs in a wide range of undergraduate, selected masters and intermediate programs, and the doctorate in Education offered on campus, at off campus sites, and online.
Faculty and students engage in research and scholarship that advance knowledge and address the problems of our region, state, and world through creativity and innovation. Learning takes place within formal and informal instructional settings with dedicated faculty members, in co-curricular programs that enrich classroom experience, in interdisciplinary educational formats, and through outreach to the local community and beyond. Appalachian cultivates diverse and vibrant arts that enrich the cultural and intellectual climate of the campus and region.
We promote a spirit of inclusion that inspires students, faculty, and staff to form relationships extending well beyond graduation. Our students think critically, communicate effectively, make local to global connections, and understand the responsibilities of community engagement. We embrace our obligation to help create healthy, just, and sustainable societies by equipping our students to live with knowledge, compassion, dedication, humility, and dignity.
(emphasis added in blue text)
On the same web page, are specific statements pertaining to the university’s vision and core values, as well as a reflective essay written by a notable Creative Writing Professor.
To contrast, I decided to look at a university that is dramatically different in almost every way possible, and one I am familiar with.
Stanford University is a private university located 30 miles southeast of San Francisco, California and sits within Silicon Valley. It is a world-renown 125 year-old institution established by a private land-grant of the Stanford Family.
The university has almost 7,000 undergraduates and another 9,000 graduates in programs that span the liberal arts and sciences, engineering, business, and a newly organized school of earth, energy and environmental science.
It’s mission statement, in effect since its charter in 1885 is as follows:
Its nature, that of a university with such seminaries of learning as shall make it of the highest grade, including mechanical institutes, museums, galleries of art, laboratories, and conservatories, together with all things necessary for the study of agriculture in all its branches, and for mechanical training, and the studies and exercises directed to the cultivation and enlargement of the mind;
Its object, to qualify its students for personal success, and direct usefulness in life;
And its purposes, to promote the public welfare by exercising an influence in behalf of humanity and civilization, teaching the blessings of liberty regulated by law, and inculcating love and reverence for the great principles of government as derived from the inalienable rights of man to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Each of Stanford’s seven schools has its own mission statement and those can be found at the links below:
- School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences Mission Statement
- Graduate School of Business Mission Statement
- School of Humanities and Sciences Mission Statement
- School of Engineering Mission Statement
- School of Medicine Mission Statement
- Graduate School of Education Mission Statement
- Stanford Law School Mission Statement
(emphasis added in red text)
Throughout the specific statements of the schools the core mission is reflected and refined to include:
- critical mass of great minds: both students and faculty
- culture of collaboration and diversity
- commitment to solutions and creating new knowledge
- developing diverse perspectives and promoting interdisciplinary study and solutions
In comparison, Virginia Tech’s mission statement reads:
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) is a public land-grant university serving the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world community. The discovery and dissemination of new knowledge are central to its mission. Through its focus on teaching and learning, research and discovery, and outreach and engagement, the university creates, conveys, and applies knowledge to expand personal growth and opportunity, advance social and community development, foster economic competitiveness, and improve the quality of life.
What is remarkable is the comparable similarities of the two schools (Appalachian State and Stanford), Virginia Tech and several others (such as Christopher Newport University).
Students: focus is on personal growth and expansion of knowledge in order to serve as responsible adults within their communities and the world at-large.
Even though not stated clearly in the Virginia Tech mission, the school’s motto, Ut Prosim, is a central tenet of the university that is reflected in academics as well as extracurricular opportunities.
Knowledge: acquire existing and create new
Inclusion/Collaboration/Diversity: create a climate of inclusion, celebrate diversity, promote collaboration both between students and students and faculty.
Sustainability: Both Appalachian State and Stanford state their commitment to sustainability within their mission statements.
Virginia Tech and many other Virginia schools seem to struggle with how to promote sustainable living practices within the core values/mission of the school. (Perhaps because of the political climate that exists within Virginia generally – these are two state schools?)
The remarkable distinctions between the two schools lie beyond their mission statements to the composition of their student body, related to geographic and economic factors, the requisite experiences and contributions students can make relative to faculty and the means by which they can achieve those contributions.
While the schools have some distinct similarities, their differences are starkly evident as well. Just the size of their endowments puts the two schools is completely different orbits. And while the age of the institutions is similar, the contributions made by each in scholarship, research and contributions to current world affairs is dramatically different as well.
What I’m left wondering is how the culture of a university – they way that the people engaged think, manage, respond and support the functions of the university or college, and beyond mission statements, visions, guiding principles – impacts the outcomes for students and faculty, and how those are perceived, accessed and utilized within the broader world they inhabit.
*** ADDENDA: Community Colleges
In class Dr. DePauw asked if anyone had looked at community colleges. I had in my general survey, but did not include it in my original post.
Our mission is to provide quality education and training opportunities that support student learning, enhance student advancement and success, and meet the workforce needs of our community.
Bucks County Community College provides a diverse community of learners with exemplary, accessible educational opportunities and the personal connections that foster success.
To support our mission, we:
- Engage and support students in learning experiences that lead to academic excellence and provide a foundation for the pursuit of higher degrees and lifelong learning.
- Empower students with the skills and credentials to secure employment in their fields and the capability to adapt and respond to the changing needs of tomorrow’s workplace.
- Develop the critical thinking skills, broad-based knowledge, and the social, ethical, and civic responsibility of our students.
- Enrich the intellectual, cultural, and recreational life of the community.
MCC excels in teaching, learning, and empowering individuals to succeed in our local and global community. We serve as a resource for college and career readiness, transfer education, workforce development, and life-long learning.
Northeast Texas Comm. College (motto: Start Here, Go Anywhere!)
Mission statements are defined in specific programs
Austin, Texas Comm. College (motto: Start Here, Get There)
The Austin Community College District promotes student success and community development by providing affordable access, through traditional and distance learning modes, to higher education and workforce training in its service area.
To fulfill its mission, the college will provide, within its available resources, the mission elements prescribed by the State of Texas: