Are we who we claim to be?


Allison BrckaLorenz

Within the current regime of accountability and outcomes based-measurement, institutional mission statements have increased in prominence as guiding and defining documents. While the importance of institutional mission is acknowledged within the higher education community, there is a lack of empirical evidence investigating how missions are experienced. Recently, a study of over 8,000 students at 65 institutions that administered NSSE and over 1,300 faculty at 19 institutions that administered the FSSE, aimed to do just that. This study sought to better understand the impact of mission on college campuses, particularly how students and faculty perceive the efficacy of an institution’s mission.

Institutions that participate in NSSE and FSSE have the ability to participate in optional consortia. The consortia are groups of at least six colleges or universities that participate during the same NSSE/FSSE administration and append additional questions to the core instrument to explore a topic of mutual interest. The Catholic Colleges and Universities Consortium and the Mission Engagement Consortium for Independent Colleges ask their participating institutions a set of items designed to focus on assessing mission effectiveness to assist participating institutions in ensuring institutional goals align with their mission and accreditation needs.

These consortium items were the focus of this study asking students and faculty about their agreement with a series of statements related to their institution’s mission. These items were grouped into three aspects: Sense of Mission, Respect for Diversity, and Values Development (see items below). Results showed that for students, agreement with institutional mission varied by demographics and characteristics such as major, grades, first-generation status, gender identity, racial/ethnic identification, and religion. For faculty, agreement with institutional mission varied by discipline, gender identity, age, and religion.

Institutional missions should be understood not only as a means of communicating values but also as a promise to those in its care, namely, students and faculty. If an institution claims to be one thing but is experienced as something else, then institutional integrity is called into question. This study suggests that there is still a distance to go before institutions can feel confident that their missions reflect not just who they claim to be but who they actually are. For more details on this study, see the published article in the Journal of College and Character here.

Sense of mission

  • The mission of this institution is widely understood by students.
  • Ethical and spiritual development of students is an important part of the mission at this institution.
  • This institution offers opportunities for volunteering and community service.
  • Social and personal development of students is an important part of the mission at this institution.
  • This institution offers opportunities for developing leadership skills.
  • Preparation for a career is an important part of the mission of this institution.
  • The heritage of the founders/founding religious community of this institution is evident here.
  • At this institution, there are opportunities for students to strengthen their religious commitment.
  • The mission of this institution is reflected in its course offerings.

Respect for diversity

  • The faculty and staff here are respectful of people of different religions.
  • The students here are respectful of people of different religions.
  • Students at this institution feel free to express their individual spirituality.
  • The faculty and staff here are respectful of people of different races and cultures.
  • The students here are respectful of people of different races and cultures.
  • People of different sexual orientations are accepted socially here.
  • The environment here encourages students to develop an appreciation of diversity.

Values development

  • As a result of my experience here, I am more aware of social justice (fairness and equality) issues in the world.
  • The faculty at this institution discuss the ethical implications of what is being studied.
  • As a result of my experience here, I am more aware of my own personal values.

acy of an institution’s mission.

Institutions that participate in NSSE and FSSE have the ability to participate in optional consortia. The consortia are groups of at least six colleges or universities that participate during the same NSSE/FSSE administration and append additional questions to the core instrument to explore a topic of mutual interest. The Catholic Colleges and Universities Consortium and the Mission Engagement Consortium for Independent Colleges ask their participating institutions a set of items designed to focus on assessing mission effectiveness to assist participating institutions in ensuring institutional goals align with their mission and accreditation needs.

These consortium items were the focus of this study asking students and faculty about their agreement with a series of statements related to their institution’s mission. These items were grouped into three aspects: Sense of Mission, Respect for Diversity, and Values Development (see items below). Results showed that for students, agreement with institutional mission varied by demographics and characteristics such as major, grades, first-generation status, gender identity, racial/ethnic identification, and religion. For faculty, agreement with institutional mission varied by discipline, gender identity, age, and religion.

Institutional missions should be understood not only as a means of communicating values but also as a promise to those in its care, namely, students and faculty. If an institution claims to be one thing but is experienced as something else, then institutional integrity is called into question. This study suggests that there is still a distance to go before institutions can feel confident that their missions reflect not just who they claim to be but who they actually are. For more details on this study, see the published article in the Journal of College and Character here.

Sense of mission

  • The mission of this institution is widely understood by students.
  • Ethical and spiritual development of students is an important part of the mission at this institution.
  • This institution offers opportunities for volunteering and community service.
  • Social and personal development of students is an important part of the mission at this institution.
  • This institution offers opportunities for developing leadership skills.
  • Preparation for a career is an important part of the mission of this institution.
  • The heritage of the founders/founding religious community of this institution is evident here.
  • At this institution, there are opportunities for students to strengthen their religious commitment.
  • The mission of this institution is reflected in its course offerings.

Respect for diversity

  • The faculty and staff here are respectful of people of different religions.
  • The students here are respectful of people of different religions.
  • Students at this institution feel free to express their individual spirituality.
  • The faculty and staff here are respectful of people of different races and cultures.
  • The students here are respectful of people of different races and cultures.
  • People of different sexual orientations are accepted socially here.
  • The environment here encourages students to develop an appreciation of diversity.

Values development

  • As a result of my experience here, I am more aware of social justice (fairness and equality) issues in the world.
  • The faculty at this institution discuss the ethical implications of what is being studied.
  • As a result of my experience here, I am more aware of my own personal values.