A Statement of Intent: Valuable or Eloquent Lip Service

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As a 3rd year Ph.D. student, I (and many of you reading this) have spent the better part of the last decade learning, working, and submerging myself in academia. In the future, both immediate and distant, academia will continue to play a major role in my personal and professional development. However, even though I have spent countless hours being a part of multiple Universities while trying to figure out what version of ‘me’ I wanted to become, I never really stopped and considered that my institution of higher learning may be doing the same thing (or have in the past).

To be honest, until enrolling in GRAD 5104 I may have only cursorily thought about an institution of higher learning’s goals, if at all. When I was looking at schools for Undergraduate, or again for Graduate school I primarily thought about what the University could give me; specifically, through the quality of programs, professors, research, and the opportunities that the later would provide me in my academic pursuits.

As I stop to think about what a University wants, or is looking to accomplish, admittedly I know little outside the obvious. From conversations with previous mentors and whatever thoughts I have on my own I can identify a few major concepts that I expect institutions of higher education to focus on: 1) to provide a high level and quality of education to its attendees, and 2) to meet the needs of its regional constituents.

I expected both of the two institutions of higher education I selected to identify, at the very least, the above criteria in each of their mission statements. I eventually selected Mississippi State University, where I graduated with my Bachelors, and Hagerstown Community College, a local community college close to where I grew up, for this exercise.

Both of their mission statements can be found below, and are surprisingly similar.  I didn’t know what I initially expected, but I figured a local community college and a large state university on par with Virginia Tech would have markedly different goals and aspirations. Regardless, both identify themselves as public institutions primarily focused on educating their respective regions.  MSU specifically highlights the greater Mississippi region while HCC adheres more closely to Washington County Maryland, both of which are primarily rural communities. Each mission statement recognizes themselves as being driving factors in their specific region’s economic and cultural development while identifying the need to give back to their communities through service, and leadership. Interestingly enough, both institution have included diversity/inclusion clauses which, in my opinion, likely relates to both institutions goal of reaching underrepresented demographics in higher education and their localities. In this sense, both MSU and HCC seem to have very similar mission statements rooted in advancing their respective regions intellectually, economically, and culturally.

Diving deeper there remains subtle differences within each mission statement that I expected when considering the scope of impact from a local community college and state land-grant University. MSU makes marked mention of research as a primary directive while HCC addresses development for profession/personal skills enhancement, enrichment of high education valuation, and preparation for university transfer.

I also appreciated MSU’s acknowledgment of its historical excellence in agriculture and stem related studies while it implied its developing excellence in liberal arts and other humanitarian related programs as room for improvement moving forward.

More generally, I think that both MSU and HCC’s mission statements are what any institution of higher education should be. They identify what they are attempting to provide, and who they are attempting to impact. Both go further and identify their importance to regional development, a role I imagine they do not take lightly. In this sense I think both are great, they say what (in my opinion) needs to be said and does so eloquently.

My only reservation is what value does a mission statement truly offer, especially if the words are mute? I attended MSU for four years, and can honestly say I feel that they are meeting their goals, from my experiences anyway, but what if they weren’t? How impactful is a mission statement and at what point does it become  lip service? I would be especially interested if anyone has (or knows of someone) who feels that a particular mission statement didn’t encompass what a institution was actively working toward.

 

Mississippi State University – Mission Statement http://www.president.msstate.edu/mission.php

Mississippi State University is a public, land-grant university whose mission is to provide access and opportunity to students from all sectors of the state’s diverse population, as well as from other states and countries, and to offer excellent programs of teaching, research, and service.

Enhancing its historic strengths in agriculture, natural resources, engineering, mathematics, and natural and physical sciences, Mississippi State offers a comprehensive range of undergraduate and graduate programs; these include architecture, the fine arts, business, education, the humanities, the social and behavioral sciences, and veterinary medicine.

The university embraces its role as a major contributor to the economic development of the state through targeted research and the transfer of ideas and technology to the public, supported by faculty and staff relationships with industry, community organizations, and government entities.

Building on its land-grant tradition, Mississippi State strategically extends its resources and expertise throughout the entire state for the benefit of Mississippi’s citizens, offering access for working and place-bound adult learners through its Meridian Campus, Extension, and distance learning programs.

Mississippi State is committed to its tradition of instilling among its students and alumni ideals of diversity, citizenship, leadership, and service.

 

Hagerstown Community College – Mission Statement http://www.hagerstowncc.edu/about-hcc/president/mission-and-vision

HCC is a state and county supported comprehensive community college. Its central purpose is to offer a diverse array of courses and programs designed to address the curricular functions of university transfer, career entry or advancement, adult basic skills enhancement, general and continuing education, as well as student and community service. It is part of the College’s mission to promote and deliver educational excellence within a learning community environment and to foster regional economic and cultural development through community service and collaboration. The College is charged to provide high quality education at a reasonable cost to meet the post-secondary educational needs of the citizens of Washington County and the surrounding region. The College believes in and teaches the ideals and values of cultural diversity and a democratic way of life and also seeks to cultivate in its students critical and independent thought, openness to new ideas, a sense of self-direction, moral sensitivity, and the value of continuing education.

 

Picture reference: https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS760US760&biw=1396&bih=662&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=dByDW6XTHY7p_Qa7lZuQDQ&q=mission+statement+&oq=mission+statement+&gs_l=img.3…4656.4656.0.4870.1.1.0.0.0.0.0.0..0.0….0…1c.1.64.img..1.0.0….0.D_P4QQ4XYKE#imgrc=XD4PIJ2Pr8FgUM:

2 Replies to “A Statement of Intent: Valuable or Eloquent Lip Service”

  1. Dear Matt! This is Yang and I believe you know what I am gonna talk about – another MSU – Michigan State University. Other than school color difference, these two MSUs share so many similarities: both public and land granted schools, both having history of agriculture etc. By comparing what Michigan State’s mission statement, I found it interesting to see that they include the vision of culturing future world leaders. It is not typical for state public universities since they will typically face the local/regional communities. While I search further, I learned that Michigan State has its international campus (one of it is in Beijing China!!) and it somehow makes sense to me since they are serving broader society and providing education to more learners around the world. I don’t know whether it’s in contrary to the initial state universities’ mission; however, I found they also included the vision of world in Michigan State’s former mission statement (1982). I enjoyed reading your blog 🙂

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