GRAD 5104

GRAD 5104 – University Mission Statements

The first topic for Preparing for the Future Professoriate (See Intro post under category GRAD 5104 for background information) is mission statements of colleges and Universities. As I attended a land grant institution for my undergraduate work and am now enrolled at another land grant, I decided to read through the statements of Iowa State University, my alma mater, and Virginia Tech, where I am currently studying (ISU & VT from here on). Interestingly, VT’s mission statement is included as part of a package including vision and objectives which dates through this year.

I am familiar with mission and vision statements through my year working in the non-profit sector and neither of these University statements match what I would think of as a mission statement from that background – the mission statements are more comparable to vision statements in the non-profit world, encapsulating broad ultimate goals. Oddly, though, VT’s goals are phrased as current work and ISU’s short mission statement is backed by three paragraphs of similar writing.

I think of a mission statement as something that should direct specific goals and objectives rather than stating what current work your organization is involved in. These statements should say to prospective students and faculty what to expect as the institution’s priorities. I don’t get the impression that either University has deeply considered their mission or vision – taking from the guidelines of the Morrill act and using the space for advertising instead.

This is surprising having spent some time at both institutions – their approach to student services and promoting university culture are vastly different despite their similar student makeup. Notably, I could have very different perspectives on them having interacted with one as an undergraduate and the other as a graduate student.

ISU promotes it’s university culture through traditions and openly presents itself as a place to study to get a job. It’s agriculture and engineering programs dominate the image of the school and its offerings. The highly visible university funding is from agricultural corporations. The culture is very much one of “school pride” like being at a sports event. The college of liberal arts and sciences promotes the school’s research image, but this is secondary to the university image.

VT, on the other hand, promotes a culture of community-support through visible statements by university leadership (the president, department heads) and consistent reminders of student services (counselling, child care, networking events, food). The most prominent departments are the same as at Iowa State but the school pride aspect of the culture is segmented under athletics whereas the university portrays itself more professionally.

These differences were extremely pronounced during the application process and I feel that, for how different the universities are, the similarity of their missions is misleading. They should focus more on how to achieve a vision if they wish to highlight current work rather than goals and demonstrate some self-awareness. I am curious to see how VT’s changes in it’s 2019- edition.


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