Reflections on Mission Statements

A mission statement of a university can be considered as the directive principles guiding the operations that affect the long-term goals of the university while also providing the community a glimpse into what should be expected at the institution. Further, an article on this topic [1], states that a mission statement should also provide insights into the existence and beliefs of an institution. On the other hand, a vision statement is supposed to guide about the values and principles paving the future plans of the institution. I feel that these two are kind of interconnected and need to be discussed simultaneously rather than treating them as different topics. As a part of this blog, I attempted to collect and compare the mission and vision statements of three schools where I had received an admit namely: Virginia Tech (VT), North Carolina State University (NCSU), and Clemson University. Another reason for choosing them is that all of them are public land-grant research universities and have served their foundational years as agricultural and mechanical institutions. So I was hoping to find similarities in their overall missions with the differentiating factor being the difference of state.

Virginia Tech


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.


Virginia Tech is a high-performing research university with a world-view that advances the land-grant values of discovery, learning, and outreach. We serve and engage the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world. We attract motivated, high-achieving students, staff, and faculty who excel in an academically energized, technologically creative, and culturally inclusive learning community. Our bold spirit, climate of innovation and service, open boundaries of study and research, and entrepreneurial approach positively transform lives and communities.

North Carolina State University


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.


As a preeminent public research university, NC State University will be increasingly recognized nationally and internationally for its innovation in education, research, scholarship and engagement that solves the world’s most critical challenges. NC State will be known as a diverse, equitable and inclusive community that has a transformative impact on society and advances the greater good.

Clemson University


Clemson University was established to fulfill our founder’s vision of “a high seminary of learning” to develop “the material resources of the State” for the people of South Carolina. Nurtured by an abiding land grant commitment, Clemson has emerged as a research university with a global vision. Our primary purpose is educating undergraduate and graduate students to think deeply about and engage in the social, scientific, economic, and professional challenges of our times. The foundation of this mission is the generation, preservation, communication, and application of knowledge. The University also is committed to the personal growth of the individual and promotes an environment of good decision making, healthy and ethical lifestyles, and tolerance and respect for others. Our distinctive character is shaped by a legacy of service, collaboration, and fellowship forged from and renewed by the spirit of Thomas Green Clemson’s covenant.


Clemson will be one of the nation’s top-20 public universities.


Reading through these, the mission statements vary and not just from a state point of view. Speaking about the focus on research, the mission statement of VT highlights its focus on “research” explicitly by speaking about the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge, while NCSU adopts a similar viewpoint with the use of “creation and application of knowledge”. Clemson University on the other hand acknowledges its emergence as a research university having a global vision. Clemson in its mission statement further does acknowledge that the foundations are related to “generation, preservation, communication, and application of knowledge” but I feel the intermediate statement tends to drive away from the research focus by speaking of educating individuals which is more under the teaching domain. From a growth perspective, I feel that the focus of Clemson is more so on individual growth whereas the other two tend to be focused on the growth of the individual as well as contribution to society. While one may argue that the growth of an individual will in turn cause the society to be a benefactor, I feel that explicitly stating this would be a better way to highlight the mission of contributions towards the “public/society”.

There are two things however that are a bit puzzling to me. Firstly, all three universities in varying terms have highlighted a mission of improving quality of life. “Quality of Life” by the WHO definition is, “an individual’s perception of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards and concerns” [2]. My interpretation of this definition leads to me propose that the quality of life is a subjective term as it is based on individual perception. Speaking from a “status in the society” point of view, the quality of life will be more influenced by the decisions of the individual. Thus, I feel that instead of stating the improvement of quality of life as a mission, it would be more appropriate to re-phrase such statements to state, “providing mediums for improvement of quality of life”. The other thing that puzzles me is the explicit use of the words, “… engagement with public and private partners” in the mission statement of NCSU. I feel that for a university having a public land-grant status, this is already implied and explicit use of the words leaves open the possibility of a thought stream that considers that others do not consider this engagement as their mission.

On consideration of the vision statements, it seems that the vision statement of Clemson could have been more descriptive or engaging whereas it simply highlights the general goal of the university to be in the nation’s highest-ranked 20 public universities. Also, I feel that the ranking of universities is something that should be more dependent on the field of education and a generalized statement would imply that all departments/schools in the university would be striving to achieve the same vision. I feel that VT and NCSU do a much better job describing the vision and highlighting major goals of the universities, however, in adherence to the findings in [1], there is an absence of quantification. The vision of a university in one way highlights the goals and looking at the URL of the universities, I realized that the mission and vision statements of a university tend to be revised from time to time by the Board. I am not sure if this is always done at a fixed interval but I think that if this is a common situation wouldn’t it be better if the Universities draft their visions till the next round of revisions quantitatively while keeping the fundamentals of the vision statement consistent?


[1] What do universities want to be? A content analysis of mission and vision statements worldwide

[2] WHOQOL: Measuring Quality of Life