Does Your Mission Statement Need Another Look?

Vol. 16 No. 3

trustees eletter vol16 no3 missionlook

As changes occur, a private school often loses sight of the original intent of its mission statement. When was the last time your Board reviewed your school's mission statement to ensure it still reflects your beliefs?

ISM recommends that you review your mission statement after a major change (such as constructing a new building on campus, creating a new division, or adding a new program) or at least every eight years.

Have a brief discussion at the Board level to determine whether there are any issues with your mission statement. If not, leave well enough alone.

If there seems to be some interest in further discussion, include the matter in your next strategic planning session. Then the Trustees can decide if it rises to the level of including it as an item, best addressed by a small ad hoc committee tasked with bringing a recommendation to the full Board.

Consider the following question as well: Is it possible for a mission statement alone to accomplish the tasks of capturing the core reasons for your school's existence, distinguishing it from all others, and guiding your school in achieving its educational purposes?

ISM’s answer is, “No, probably not. It is, however, a beginning.” We suggest that, along with the mission statement, your school should have two other definitive documents that help address these concerns. ISM calls this group of documents Purpose and Outcome Statements.

These are:

  1. a Portrait of the Graduate statement (a list of desired student outcomes), and
  2. the Characteristics of Professional Excellence (a list of characteristics serving as an operational definition of your faculty “ideal”).

These three statements together will provide the scope and guidance your school needs to define itself in a direct, clear, and distinguishing manner.

Mission statements are important. Yours cannot be allowed to drift into a wilderness of idiosyncratic interpretation and application. A twofold approach of systematic review and monitoring, on the one hand, and conversion to P&O Statements on the other, can ground your students, faculty, and community in an easily understood and communicated set of critical ideas around which all your activities—educational, professional, administrative, governance, fundraising, enrollment management, and even financial management—can readily be structured.

Additional ISM resources:
The Source for Advancement Vol. 15 No. 8 The Importance of Creating a ‘Portrait of the Graduate’ Statement for Your School
The Source for Trustees Vol. 12 No. 5 Your School’s Statement of Philosophy

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 38 No. 6 Solutions for Your Wandering Mission Statement
I&P Vol. 42 No. 1 Creating Divisional and Departmental Mission Statements
I&P Vol. 29 No. 8 Mission and Leadership: A Primer in Mission-Oriented ‘Change’ Problems

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