A Man on a Mission

Once upon a time, there was a practicing engineer who decided to come back to school on a mission.  To become an engineering professor.  Now along the way, he encountered various adventures, obstacles, rewards, and some really great people.  But as his time has neared the end (okay, so maybe it is still like 21 months, but that is closer than the 5 years I started with), it is time to start considering the next phase.  Where would he want to teach?

In my time here at Tech, I have run across engineering students from around the world who have studied at universities so diverse, it would bust the blog server for me to discuss them all.  But from that rather long list, there are a couple universities that have popped out at me for various reasons.  Clemson, with its proud alumni always willing to spell the word T-I-G-E-R-S for us, just in case we forgot.  And Marshall, perhaps the original “We Are” school.  In my way of thinking, both would offer some advantages, so when asked to pick two schools to learn more about, in the form of examining their Mission Statements, I chose those.  By which I mean that I did a Google search for the university name and “mission statement”.  The top result for Clemson was from their police department.  They have their own mission statement and based on their placement in the Google listing universe, you have to wonder why exactly they are so important.  Maybe South Carolina isn’t the place for me afterall.  But, eventually, I found what I was looking for.

The two statements are as different as the school colors, though strangely compatible (unlike the combination of purple, orange and green).  Clemson offers a very concise paragraph in which it attributes its core to Thomas Green Clemson himself.  Marshall starts that way, points out that it was approved by the Board of Visitors, and then gives very specific bullet points of how the mission applies to the activities of the University, faculty, staff, students, and administration, in that order.  I wondered how administration got put last, but it was likely a lively and lengthy debate by the BoV that came up with the order, so who am I to question?  They likely debated even longer on each bullet point, but my favorite was “enhance the quality of health care in the region”.  It struck me as very odd compared to other things, but then I researched and found out they have a Medical School, so it made sense.

There was a pair of phrases used that I want to quote, because to me, they are the core essence of a mission that I embarked on over 3 years ago when I came back to school.

ClemsonThe foundation of this mission is the generation, preservation, communication, and application of knowledge.

MarshallThe University actively facilitates learning through the preservation, discovery, synthesis, and dissemination of knowledge.

Okay, so, they both want to preserve.  One says communicate while the other says disseminate.  Symantics.  One says generate while the other says synthesize.  Hmmm… are those different?  In fact, along with synthesizing, Marshall wants to discover.  As if knowledge exists in some raw form under the West Virginia mountains.  That seems strange to me.  Generating knowledge seems more comfortable, as a lot of us know what it is like to play off of a colleague and together generate energy toward a goal, learning along the way, increasing our individual knowledge bases.  But, I suppose that could be seen as discovery and maybe synthesis is just another way of describing it.  I am not an English major, so I will assume those are roughly the same.

But, the last word remaining is near and dear to my heart.  At Clemson, a land-grant university, they want to apply knowledge.  If you read the rest of the statements, it makes a lot of sense.  Clemson is more integrated into the community by design, applying the knowledge generated to the community.  Engineers like the word “application”.  It makes us feel all warm and fuzzy that what we are learning in theoretical terms promises to  have actual use to someone.

Of course, there are lots of other similarities and differences between the schools and their missions.  And I will likely spend a good bit of time researching more about them, should they have an opening advertised in the next couple years.  But for the moment, it was an interesting first look at how two different schools see and portray themselves.

About rainman

CEE SEM MS ’12 PhD ’15
ESM BS ’92
SUC ’89-’92

Category(s): PFP13F, Teaching Philosophy

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