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The Power of Mission Statement

I received my master’s degree from University of Nebraska (UNL) and then, started my PhD at Virginia Tech (VT). For this reason, it was interesting for me to look at the mission statements of these two universities and discuss differences between a university ranked below 100 and a top ten university in graduate engineering program.

 

  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Mission Statement:

“As Nebraska’s only land-grant, comprehensive, research university, our mission is clear. It is defined by the Board of Regents and the Nebraska Statutes. We are directed to teach, to do research, and to serve Nebraskans. These missions are intertwined and interdependent. The products of the fulfillment of our mission are young adults prepared to lead successful lives, innovation that expands our horizons and our economy, creative activity that improves the quality of our lives, and a close connection to the needs and aspirations of Nebraska.”

  • Virginia Tech’s Mission Statement:

“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.”

 

Living in both states (three years in Nebraska and 3 months in Virginia) and studying in both universities, I would say that the differences between the universities are aligned with their mission statements.

Both statements are short, deliberate, and to the point.

Both universities are land-grant universities and focusing on research, teaching, and service. However, VT defines its missions better by mentioning “teaching and learning,” “research and discovery,”, and “outreach and engagement” in comparison with UNL’s mission definition: “to teach,” “to research,” and “to serve”. On the other hand, UNL’s emphasis on the interdependency and intertwining characteristics of three main areas of mission statement is interesting.

The main difference between the missions of these universities is the scope for their service. UNL commits to serve “Nebraskans” but VT commits to serve “the commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world community”. To me, Virginia Tech aims to be recognized internationally for its scholarly efforts and its mission statement reflects that goal. This difference demonstrates that the diversity is prominent in the society of VT and it is exactly what I have experienced in last three months. Virginia Tech follows what most of the public land-grant universities commit: “contribution to all people”.

Both universities stand for improving the quality of life, innovation, and fostering the economic. However, Virginia Tech aims to promote personal growth and UNL aims to prepare young adults for successful lives. To be successful, one needs to focus on personal growth which is what Virginia Tech commits to do. In my opinion, Virginia tech is saying more with less by defining what is important about this institution.

In sum, the mission statement is considered as one of the fundamental building blocks of an institution. The differences between mission statements of these two universities show that such statements of land-grant universities may vary significantly across the United States.

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