University Business - March 2008 - (Page 27)

VIEWPOINT Who Cares About the Mission? Creating and leading through a meaningful mission statement By J. Michael Adams D OES YOUR UNIVERSITY’S mission matter to your faculty, staff, and students? Do they even know what it is? Do they care? In corporate culture, mission statements have frequently been lampooned. In fact, the website of the popular Dilbert comic strip features a game in which you can plug in nouns, verbs, and adjectives and generate your own meaningless mission statement, such as: “Our mission is to proactively provide access to emerging paradigms to meet our customers’ needs.” Ask faculty on nearly any college or university campus to identify their school’s mission and you will likely get a blank stare. If pressed, some might say their school’s mission statement was written by a committee, has no relevance to what they do, and only surfaces during accreditation visits. Make no mistake, though. The most successful and most focused companies and campuses are defined by their mission and driven daily by a sense of that mission. When I became president of Fairleigh Dickinson University (N.J.) in 1999, I joined a wonderful institution with talented faculty, illustrious alumni, exciting programs, and rich traditions. What I didn’t find, though, was a coherent vision or idea uniting the community. I visited every department in the university, met with scores of regional business leaders, and held gatherings with alumni. I read about our history and studied the campus environment. What emerged was a proposed new mission: “to prepare world citizens through global education.” The mission, which was adopted by Some might say that their school’s mission statement only surfaces during accreditation visits. the Faculty Senate and Board of Trustees in 2000, fulfills several key criteria: It is linked to our traditions; it is responsive to the needs of our students in a global economy and an increasingly interconnected world; it is distinctive; and, many say, it is even a bit inspiring. While some universities now include an international element in their missions, we believe FDU was among the very first—if not the first—to make global education the cornerstone of its vision for the future. MAKING IT REAL It’s easy to write a mission statement. Just ask Dilbert. The real challenge is to create a sense of mission across the institution. We decided to kick-start the process by investing in a few breathtaking initiatives. If we could conspicuously demonstrate something real, then other ideas and activities would follow. Here are three examples: • The development of online learning. This excited many in higher education, but most thought only in terms of reaching new students and creating new revenue streams. FDU took a different approach. If the internet could be used to reach out to the world, then it could also be used to bring the world to campus. In 2001, led by our new Office of Global Learning, we introduced a groundbreaking distance-learning program and became the first traditional university to require that all undergraduate students take one online course per year. The initiative not only prepares students for a lifetime of learning on the internet, but it uses the internet to explore global issues and perspectives. The first online course developed was “The Global Challenge,” a university core requirement taken by all freshmen. Freshmen report that it is among the hardest courses they’ve ever taken; seniors say it is among the most valuable. • The creation of our Global Virtual Faculty (GVF) program. The program now features nearly 60 scholars and professionals from around the world. They partner with FDU faculty via internet chat rooms to bring international perspectives to our students. Examples of GVF include the senior political columnist from the Times of India, a Hungarian environmentalist, J. Michael Adams is the president of Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey’s largest private university (, and co-author of Coming of Age in a Globalized World: The Next Generation, available at March 2008 | 27

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of University Business - March 2008

University Business - March 2008
College Index
Company Index
Advisory Board
Editor's Note
Stats Watch
Sense of Place
EduComm Insert
Financial Aid
Money Matters
Human Resources
Higher One Insert
Community College
Cadets on Campus
Keeping an Eye on the Network
Sizing Up Second Life
Endowment Management
What's New
Calendar of Events
End Note

University Business - March 2008