Same Vision, Different Lenses

All organizations are started with the purpose of providing a product or service that is wanted/needed by their community. As to what that “product” or “service” is and who their “community” includes is where differences between groups lie. Whether it is a for-profit company, a non-profit organization, or an institution of higher education they are all providing something for their community, but they serve different purposes and have differing goals. When I look at institutions of higher education I see many different types of universities, but typically when it comes to land-grant, research focused universities they are almost one and the same, just wearing different colors.

My experiences so far in higher education have been with The Ohio State University and Virginia Tech. I received my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from OSU and am currently working on my Ph.D at Virginia Tech. I will be the first to say that these two universities are different at face value, but when I step back and look at them in their entirety they become difficult to separate. If I were to be blindfolded and taken to either campus to hear lectures, learn about their research, listen to their sporting events, and engage in student activities among other things I would not be able to tell the difference between the two (as long as Buckeyes or Hokies was not mentioned).

Comparing the mission statements for OSU and Virginia Tech further showcases the similarity between these two universities:

Overhead view of the Oval at Ohio State

OSU’s mission statement:┬áTo advance the well-being of the people of Ohio and the global community through the creation and dissemination of knowledge through pursuing knowledge for its own sake, igniting in our students a lifelong love of learning, producing discoveries that make the world a better place, celebrating and learning from our diversity, and opening the world to our students.

Aerial view of Virginia Tech's campus

Virginia Tech’s mission statement: 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.

Obviously there are differences in the wording between these mission statements, but it is the core beliefs inside them that show how similar these institutions really are. Both OSU and Virginia Tech bring up the importance of promoting student learning, discovering through research, giving back to their community, improving our society as a whole, and most importantly the dissemination of knowledge. And I say most importantly here because this is where land-grant universities may have the largest difference from other organizations. Land-grant universities have the responsibility to give back and provide everyone, even those not involved with the university, with the information they have learned. And it is here where universities such as OSU and Virginia Tech are really not that different, but just serve different geographical locations.

OSU and Virginia Tech can be separated by looking at research funding in recent years, which OSU has received more. They can also be separated based on size of undergraduate enrollment, which OSU ranks in the top 10. Or they can be separated by their national ranking, which puts Virginia Tech and OSU at 117 and 155, respectively, out of the 650 universities ranked. They can be separated by their history, their famous alumni, the architecture of their buildings, or anything else you can directly see, but it is the vision of both universities that proves their similarity. And I for one am glad we have institutions such as OSU and Virginia Tech serving the communities across our country and I am proud to say that I have been able to be a part of both of them.