Sunday, September 11, 2011

Weekly reading: Institutional mission

This week's reflection is in response to Lyons, J. W. (1997). The importance of institutional mission. In E. J. Whitt (Ed.), College student affairs administration (pp. 136-144). Needham Heights, MA: Simon & Schuster.

In your own words, what is the author attempting to explain?
The author provides some historical context when discussion the history of higher education. Over the centuries, the goals have informed the mission of different institutions. Traditionally, the three missions of higher ed have been teaching, research, and public service - with different emphasis placed on each area.

Institutional missions are also informed by the unique heritage, geography, social organization, culture, and organized systems - which is why no two institutional missions are identical.

In what ways do the author's ideas reflect or contradict my educational experience?
There author describes a separation between the teleological mission and the "living mission" but I don't see why they can't be the same thing. I wouldn't argue in favor of revising the written mission on a yearly basis just to coincide with the "living mission." However, if you have one mission that is pre-planned and one that is just how things go, doesn't that create a major mis-match between espoused and enacted values?

In what ways do the author's ideas inform how I think about education?

This article got me thinking more about how I define 'liberal arts' because it describes several different examples of liberal arts programs. One that is more general and inclusive, and one that appears to be explicitly anti-applied-knowledge. 

What are the implications of these ideas for higher education generally and for my own practice in student affairs? In other words, what different actions do they encourage?

This article encourages professionals to be knowledgeable about the unique setting, culture, and history of their institutions in order to inform their understanding of the university mission. Understanding the mission goes beyond reading the written words, and has a lot to do with the context and history of the institution. 

What questions remain for me?

I have more questions about the subtleties of community college missions. If the VPSA of a community college is aware that things like "getting out of the house" and "to get out of prison sooner" are important motivators of students, why are they strategically worded in the mission or omitted? Does the mission have to be glossy and lofty, or can it be more straightforward and honest?