Exploring Mission Statements

Mission Statements are utilized by organizations, companies, and universities all over the world in order to communicate their aims and values. My husband and I even have a mission statement for our marriage. In any endeavor, whether its academia, industry, or anything else, it is important to ensure that the core values of the organization you are considering align at least in principle with your own. As a future professor, a great first check when considering a future institution is to find their mission statement. It can shed light on the key values of the institution so you can better determine if its the right fit for you.

The first mission statement I chose for such a reason. Although a majority of my mother’s side of the family are alumni of Cal Poly, I don’t know much about the institution itself even though it has come up as a possible future workplace for me. Cal Poly is a polytechnic university in San Luis Obispo, California. It is a master’s university in which no doctoral degrees are issued. Their mission statement is as follows:

Cal Poly fosters teaching, scholarship, and service in a learn-by-doing environment where students, staff, and faculty are partners in discovery. As a polytechnic university, Cal Poly promotes the application of theory to practice. As a comprehensive institution, Cal Poly provides a balanced education in the arts, sciences, and technology, while encouraging cross-disciplinary and co-curricular experiences. As an academic community, Cal Poly values free inquiry, cultural and intellectual diversity, mutual respect, civic engagement, and social and environmental responsibility.

I’ve always been drawn to the “learn by doing” motto of Cal Poly. It’s a concept I’ve grown up with through 4-H and FFA and I’ve always appreciated that idea in the classroom as well as the idea of student’s and faculty being “partners in discovery”. I observed a classroom the other day here at Virginia Tech that utilized this idea. It was called “full participation” in which the instructor, teaching assistant, and students all participated in the discussion on the same level. I enjoyed this type of pedagogy and am interested in learning more about Cal Poly’s implementation of this concept in the classroom. I also like the actual mechanics of how this mission statement is set up as well, addressing each of university’s roles specifically as a polytechnic university and as a broader learning community.

The second institution I chose was Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. I chose this university because it’s my husband’s alma mater and because it’s important to include tribal colleges in discussions of higher education, especially when it comes to the topic of mission statements. Haskell’s mission statement is as follows:

The mission of Haskell Indian Nations University is to build the leadership capacity of our students by serving as the leading institution of academic excellence, cultural and intellectual prominence, and holistic education to address the needs of Indigenous communities.

The thing that stood out to the me the most about this mission statement is the emphasis on community. Tribal colleges are very different from traditional universities. This is expressively seen in their definition of success. Tribal colleges look at success differently. Instead of worrying about numbers and retention, Haskell looks at meeting the needs of the individual and the community. Community is very important to the tribal community and helping the individual connect to their community.

Reviewing an institution’s mission statement is an easy way to get a quick look at what is important to the university. As a future professor, I think checking this statement is an important step in finding a good fit for a future faculty position.


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