Mentors and Mission Statements

With the end of the semester around the corner, I’m starting to thoroughly narrow down the topic of my dissertation.  It’s not necessary to have done immediately, but my topic of choice has become increasingly significant to me as my current place of employment has been in the process of rewriting its mission statement this year.  The process to watch from the outside has been quite fascinating.
I am planning to write on mission statements.  My cohort members are probably getting a little exhausted by the number of times I bring up mission and want to tie everything back to mission in moving forward and thinking about institutions and their roles in shaping students’ lives.
While I’ll continue to expand on mission statements in the future, as this has been a topic of interest for over a decade for me, I am compelled to start my exploration in knowing how I became interested in this topic.  I started my higher education journey at the College of St. Catherine, now known as St. Catherine University, in St. Paul, Minnesota.  I had planned to be an occupational therapist for over ten years before beginning to attend St. Kate’s, in large part due to my interaction with OTs through my sister Brenda.  Before switching to a communication studies major, I began some extremely meaningful interactions with administrators at St. Kate’s.
The relationship between Curt and myself is one of the most difficult relationships to define from my times at St. Kate’s. Unlike many of the administrators with whom I formed meaningful relationships during my four years, Curt and I did not meet until I was a sophomore in the resident assistant position.
Curt and I explored several different issues while I was at St. Kate’s, and we explored them with fervor, debate, and discussion. No one at the institution challenged me to define and share my beliefs and understand the reasons for them as much as he did. Additionally, few administrators listened to my thoughts and ideas as regularly as he did or with as open of a mind as his. It is rare to find the individuals in our lives who truly act for the student, and Curt was one individual who listened to my perspective and other student perspectives and then approached the other administrators in a way that encouraged their recognition of the student voice.  I hope that I can emulate his leadership as a professional.
Curt provided me with interesting feedback in my two years and challenged me with projects which he knew I could accomplish and do well. During my initial time at St. Kate’s, as I was training to be an RA, Curt started to speak of the mission of the institution.  He shared the process the institution had gone through recently in defining who it was and his passion for the mission of the college was evident in his sharing.  He half-mentioned how interesting it would be to explore the mission’s language through his musings on the new statement.  As a young, impressionable student, I took this to heart.
Thus began my interest in college/department mission statements.  I look at the language, the ways it expresses expectation and hope for students, staff and faculty.  I love the way it can drive decision-making and acknowledge what is most important to the institution.
Has your institutional mission been important to you?  Do you feel your institution lives its mission?  How has this been shared?

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