Many of us always want to know how the best becomes the best! Searching for different universities’ mission statements, I focused on two top universities in the United States:
Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, established in 1636, whose history, influence, and wealth have made it one of the world’s most prestigious universities.
“Harvard University (comprising the undergraduate college, the graduate schools, other academic bodies, research centers and affiliated institutions) does not have a formal mission statement. The mission of Harvard College is to educate the citizens and citizen-leaders for our society. We do this through our commitment to the transformative power of a liberal arts and sciences education.”
“Beginning in the classroom with exposure to new ideas, new ways of understanding, and new ways of knowing, students embark on a journey of intellectual transformation. Through a diverse living environment, where students live with people who are studying different topics, who come from different walks of life and have evolving identities, intellectual transformation is deepened and conditions for social transformation are created. From this we hope that students will begin to fashion their lives by gaining a sense of what they want to do with their gifts and talents, assessing their values and interests, and learning how they can best serve the world.”
What first astonished me was that they mentioned they do not have a formal mission statement! and then they continued with a mission statement! So is this a mission statement which is not formal? a casual mission statement? I liked the way they took it easy. But more importantly, in their simple semi-short statement, they emphasized the role of liberal arts as a transformative power which in my opinion was brilliant.
Moreover, in the second paragraph, this mission emphasizes the diversity and its role on educational experience and transformation of individuals. Believing in different approaches of knowing and provisioning the impact of the students at a global level, Harvard’s mission statement tries to demonstrate the role and importance of this academic institution in shaping future world leaders instead of relying solely on its academic vigor.
What I found a little bit vague (and to some extent disappointing) is in the first paragraph where they talk about “citizen-leaders for our society”, I could not totally understand whose society they are referring to (Harvard’s? United States’? “our” global society?). Given the diverse population of Harvard’s students I think this is a legitimate question to be answered.
Yale University is an American private Ivy League research university in New Haven, Connecticut. Founded in 1701, it is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine Colonial Colleges chartered before the American Revolution.
Yale is committed to improving the world today and for future generations through outstanding research and scholarship, education, preservation, and practice. Yale educates aspiring leaders worldwide who serve all sectors of society. We carry out this mission through the free exchange of ideas in an ethical, interdependent, and diverse community of faculty, staff, students, and alumni.
What I like the most about Yale’s mission statement is its concise tone! It does not brag about the college which is not a common habit among academic institutions! Again like Harvard’s, here we see that Yale defines a global responsibility for training scholars who can lead and serve the global society. What sounds a bit different about Yale, is the valorizing of preservation and practice. While research, scholarship and education are inseparable parts of higher education, “preservation” and “practice”, in my view, need more attention when it comes to defining academic institutions’ mission.
And the last but not least, by considering the faculty, students, alumni and staff as interdependent elements which can carry out the university mission through their free exchange of ideas, Yale dignifies all the people involved in this process and not only the front actors!