A mission statement should be the guiding principle(s) of an organization, in the not for profit sector many organizations review and assess their performance based on their success in achieving their mission. In higher education sometimes mission can seem very blurry even when it’s written out. It is often difficult to tell if the institution is achieving its mission and how. For this post, I reviewed the mission statements of two very different institutions: Grambling State University and Virginia Tech. This choice was deliberate because these are two institutions I am very familiar with and mission assessment should require some familiarity with the subject. In reviewing these statements, I wanted to gain the answer the question “who are we”
Both institutions are U.S based, Grambling State is located in Louisiana and is a historically Black institution (HBCU). Virginia Tech (as we all know) is located in southwest Virginia and is a predominantly white institution (PWI). Two very contrasting institutions, not only by label but also by practice. By simply analyzing the mission statements it is clear which institution truly aims to practice “pedagogy of care” which is defined as “. Method and practice of teaching where the instructor takes the role of caregiver and the student takes the role of care-receiver. Caring is relational and includes concern for person and performance.” The pedagogy of care concept is something I genuinely believe in: we all want to belong to something and we all want to know that who we are matters. We want the validation that our work and abilities are valued and that the institution we work for believes in us.
So how can I measure the institution’s commitment to pedagogical care work by assessing the mission statement? The answer is simply in the language used.
Grambling’s slightly too long mission statement there many strong statements that reflect the institution’s pedagogical practices and commitment to care and community: “commitment to the education”, “the University seeks to reflect in all of its programs the diversity in the world”, “a community of learners who strive for excellence in their pursuit of knowledge”, which nurtures their development for leadership in academics”. Grambling is clearly a university that cares about student success and also fostering an environment where community values are strong.
Virginia Tech’s statement is very concise (as a mission statement should be), however, it is a general overarching statement and really does not answer the question; “who are we?” What kind of institution is Virginia Tech? Yes as stated it is a land-grant institution, but what does that mean as a guiding principle? Ut Prosim is also stated in the mission statement but what does it mean as a function.
How many of us have heard “UT Prosim” continuously quoted and still cannot definitively say we know what it means to us and the institution. How does Virginia Tech serve and how are we, as part of the Tech community expected or prepared to serve? This directly contrasts Grambling’s many statements of service.
I believe Grambling clearly answered the “who are we” question and though Virginia Tech state this, there is so much that is lost in translation. If the institution cannot clearly express the “who” and the “why” of what they do, or should I say their identity, how can those who are part of the institution truly connect to its identity and gain a sense of belonging?
Grambling State University Mission
Grambling State University is a comprehensive, historically black, public institution that offers a broad spectrum of undergraduate and graduate programs of study. Through its undergraduate major courses of study, which are undergirded by a traditional liberal arts program, and through its graduate school, which has a professional focus, the University embraces its founding principle of educational opportunity. With a commitment to the education of minorities in American society, the University seeks to reflect in all of its programs the diversity in the world. The University advances the study and preservation of African American history, art, and culture.
Grambling State University is a community of learners who strive for excellence in their pursuit of knowledge and who seek to contribute to their respective major academic disciplines. The University prepares its graduates to compete and succeed in careers related to its programs of study, to contribute to the advancement of knowledge, and to lead productive lives as informed citizens in a democratic society. The University provides its students a living and learning environment which nurtures their development for leadership in academics, athletics, campus governance, and in their future pursuits. The University affords each student the opportunity to pursue any program of study provided that the student makes reasonable progress. Grambling fosters in its students a commitment to service and to the improvement in the quality of life for all persons.
The University expects that all persons who matriculate and who are employed at Grambling will reflect through their study and work that the University is indeed a place where all persons are valued, “where everybody is somebody.”
Virginia Tech Mission Statement
Inspired by our land-grant identity and guided by our motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech is an inclusive community of knowledge, discovery, and creativity dedicated to improving the quality of life and the human condition within the Commonwealth of Virginia and throughout the world.