Mission Statements

I’ve chosen to compare the mission statements from the University of Toronto, where I studied undergraduate engineering, and from Virginia Tech, where I’m currently enrolled in graduate engineering studies. Both are relatively large public research universities, but with vastly different visions.

University of Toronto (Toronto, Canada)

Without a doubt, this university is dedicated to cutting-edge research and being at the forefront of new ideas. In pursuit of these advancements, this institution places the highest value in freedom and liberation of the human spirit, believing that “the most crucial of all human rights are the rights of freedom of speech, academic freedom, and freedom of research.” What stood out to me is the use of strong word choices, such as the “right to raise deeply disturbing questions” and the “right to radical, critical teaching and research.” The message is clear: the institution has the goal of challenging the status quo, and its constituents should have the freedom to do so.

The mission statement reflects the university’s setting. The institution is located in one of the most multicultural cities in the world, where diversity and ever changing demographics require constant integration of new ideas.

I do think maintaining the freedoms, especially research freedom, will be a challenge for this university. Its research areas already span across 222 disciplines, with dominant majority funding coming from the public sector. However, with plans to further expand its research front, the university would likely have to increase its funding from sources other than the government, and do so without compromising its stance on research freedom. After all, implicit in the mission statement is that the freedom belongs to the people, as part of a democratic system. The challenge will lie in maintaining a liberal institution unmarred by private interests.

Compounding the challenge is attracting international students without creating a financial barrier. Because let’s face it – international students are lucrative sources of funding, but they are also potential talents and could benefit innovation.

The challenges mentioned above are inevitable given the ambitious mission statement. But of all places, a higher institution should be where some of the greatest challenges are tackled. It’ll be interesting to see where the university will be a few years from now.

Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA)

The mission statement is broad, touching on teaching, research, and outreach, though more emphasis seems to be placed on the very last term. Considering the university motto – “ut proism” or “that I may serve” – perhaps a major goal of the university is to foster student development such that they could be well-rounded individuals who serve the community.

I wish I could say more, but the mission statement is quite generic. Perhaps with an expanding research portfolio, the university will take on a different direction while maintaining its core value of giving back to the public. Feel free to comment if you think I missed any important points for VT.