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Mission Statement


Review the current UMD mission statement and suggest changes.


The vision and the mission of UMD need to complement one another. If necessary, the vision is usually created before the mission, since the mission needs to support the vision. However, in the timeline for the strategic plan, this is reversed, with the mission statement approved before the vision is out for review. At the very least, I feel the comment period for both statements needs to overlap so that we can see evaluate them together.

Thank you.

A working draft of the UMD mission statement will be adopted by the Strategic Planning Steering Committee and Chancellor Black in February while a vision statement, campus goals, and action steps are being developed. The mission statement will be reviewed in March and April and modified to align with other elements of the plan.

The current Mission Statement draft is an improvement in 3 ways:

1) It's much more concise.

2) It anchors the university with a strong liberal arts core. We aren't MSCF nor MnSCU. We educate people; we don't train them. Our graduates should leave as critically thinking global citizens who are able to adjust with more ease than others to a rapidly changing world.

3) It stresses the "global" aspect. I would hope colleagues are able to come together asking students what THEY feel is important in their education. I believe, they will tell us, they desire a core of liberally designed courses in language and culture articulation that becomes a program requirement of an increasing number of our degree programs across all 5 collegiate units.

I appreciate the inclusive process to develop a new UMD mission statement. I am in agreement with a previous post that the mission and vision should be considered together. In addition, the statements will benefit from a rationale so we understand why the changes to the mission are being suggested.

Attached is a combined UMD mission/vision statement with a rationale.

After yesterday's Strategic Planning forum, I tinkered a bit with the draft mission statement, trying to add a sense of place and inspiration. Here's my suggestion:

"The University of Minnesota Duluth is a diverse, student-centered, learning community, driven by research and built on a solid liberal arts foundation. Artists and innovators, learners and leaders, we are drawn to this place on the shores of Lake Superior. Here we do our best work – serving the people of Minnesota, educating globally competent citizens, and creating new solutions for a changing world."

Thank you to the mission statement committee for all of your work and for encouraging feedback.

For your consideration:

I think this draft of the mission statement may be describing the wrong thing. It is talking more about the "assembly line" than the "product" of UMD.

Good mission statements are succinct, memorable, and say what an organization produces -- what they aim to create. Further descriptions of how this is accomplished and why we aim for this are outside of the mission statement and may be provided in subsequent paragraphs in support of the mission statement.

I offer this suggestion:

The mission of the University of Minnesota Duluth is to create learning.

We create learning through research - in disciplines, interdisciplinary, UROP, SoTL (scholarship of teaching & learning), co-curricular research, assessment of learning outcomes, etc.

We create learning through teaching - curricular programs, co-curricular programs, advising, civic engagement, etc.

We create learning through community outreach, engagement, and service

To serve our local, state, and world community.
To reap the public, private, social, and economic benefits of having well-educated citizens.

*A seminal article came out in 1995 on a major paradigm shift in higher education. This is the most cited article in the history of Change:The Magazine of Higher Learning. According to Google Scholar it has been cited in over 1300 publications. Here are a couple of excerpts:

"A paradigm shift is taking hold in American higher education. In its briefest form, the paradigm that has governed our colleges is this: A college is an institution that exists to provide instruction. Subtly but profoundly we are shift in to a new paradigm: A college is an institution that exists to produce learning. This shift changes everything. It is both needed and wanted."

"Now, however, we are beginning to recognize that our dominant paradigm mistakes a means for an end. It takes the means or method -- called instruction or teaching -- and makes it the college's end or purpose. To say that the purpose of college is to provide instruction is like saying that General Motors' business is to operate assembly lines or that the purpose of medical care is to fill hospital beds. We now see that our mission is not instruction but rather that of producing learning with every student by whatever means work best."(Barr, R.B. and Tagg, J. 1995).

Click here for a link to the full article:

From Teaching To Learning: A New Paradigm For Undergraduate Education

The link does not appear to be working in my previous comment. Here it is:

I agree with the emphasis on "learning" in Susan Darge's short and very satisfactory mission statement. Emphasizing learning removes the false dichotomy between teaching and research, since research is a form of learning as well as classroom learning. Moreover, as faculty we need to model learning in our classrooms - show the students how and what we are ourselves learning every year - instead of just "instructing" or "teaching". If we ourselves are not learning, then how can we teach? Learning and the curiosity which is its prerequisite are the core values of a university.

In a short and elegant essay entitled " A Note on the Functions of a University", G. Evelyn Hutchinson said: "The university should be regarded primarily as a place of learning, not of teaching...The teacher should show by example ow learning is accompanied by intense mental excitement...It is the basic function of a university to emphasize, as vigorously as possible, that intellectual activity is one of the great pleasures of life."

I gave Denny Falk a copy of this essay to pass along to the Strategic Planning Team. I can provide a copy to anyone who wishes. Simply contact me at

It's hard to miss the emphasis on global engagement (in the mission statement) and global issues (in the vision). Those are great ideas. I wonder though if we can really be serious about global *engagement* without requiring more of our students in terms of learning foreign languages. How can you really be globally engaged without knowing languages other than English?

Here's an article that argues that English isn't enough...

And here's a fairly serious effort at promoting global engagement, I think, from the other UMD.

Note that the above seem to focus on the liberal arts, but I think global engagement is just as relevant (if not more so) for business people, engineers, scientists, etc. If UMD is going to put so much emphasis on global issues at a high level, it seems like we should be having a serious discussion about how to get a very significant percentage of our students proficient in a second language. I'd go so far to suggest that as a goal for the campus. That's a big commitment, but global engagement shouldn't be a term we toss about lightly.

Writing a mission statement may actually be the most difficult part of the entire strategic planning process because once written, everything else needs to follow suit. Deciding what to include is complicated by the fact that everyone will have a different vision of how our mission is best stated. Drawing this diversity of opinion together will prove no easy feat and I thank the mission group for being willing to grapple with the challenge. Given this, here is my thinking relative to the most recently posted mission statement: UMD serves the people of the Lake Superior region, Minnesota and beyond by creating a comprehensive education grounded in liberal arts and research, generating knowledge, and preparing students to thrive as lifelong learners and globally engaged citizens.
1. Beginning with what I like, I like the phrase "globally engaged citizens." Engagement goes beyond awareness.
2. I do have a problem with the phrase "grounded in liberal arts..." At UMD an education isn't grounded in liberal arts. Here, the liberal arts are mostly the humanities and social science disciplines. What the statement is actually saying is that education is grounded in a liberal education, which refers to a way that learning is approached, rather than the disciplines represented in CLA.
3. Finally, I like brevity more than anything in a mission statement. When I look at our institution it ask "what are we about?" my answer is that we are about students, first and foremost. My suggested revision, then, is: UMD prepares students to thrive as lifelong learners and globally-engaged citizens. (Actually, I might like the word "flourish" better than thrive.)
Thank you.

This version of the mission statement resonates with me much more than any previous version. The brevity does not sacrifice they key themes of our identity. I also want to provide support for Jerry Pepper's comments #2 and #3 in his post above. Liberal education is a broader approach than liberal arts. Also, though the University exists for many purposes, without our students we're not a university. Jerry's revision emphasizes the centrality of student learning without diminishing the other themes of the mission.

I feel our mission statement seems to be focused more on "what we will do for.." instead of showcasing the partnership between what we will provide and what students need to take advantage of in order to be successful.

Reading the comments above, I see a lot of discussion about showcasing a learner-centered campus (Susan Darge and John Pastor) and I agree with them. I loved John's sentiment that we, as educators, need to model our learning to students to show that learning does not stop once you get a degree. I also really like how both Sue and John put the emphasis on "learning."

However, I think our language can be more supportive of the intent of that discussion. I feel statements about how "we create learning" is not accurate in a learner-centered model because it suggests we "create" learning and without us, learning could not happen (a wise professor reminded me recently about language usage).

I would love our mission statement to stand out by showing that there are two in this process: the university and the student.

Perhaps instead of "we create learning" we make statements that we have control over, such as: "we create an environment for learning to occur" or "we guide students to explore opportunities that will enhance their learning experience" or we expose students to concepts, ideas, theories, viewpoints and experiences to encourage them to explore and solidify their development and purpose."

None of this wording is exactly right, but I hope it opens up the discussion to have our mission statement show both what we can do and what students need to do to participate in their learning.

Thank you for listening.

Community Partnerships/ terms of our partnership with the larger community, I know many faculty and staff who are engaged in community programs, such as myself, part of Mentor Duluth. I suggest that UMD have in the future, more days that work with programs like these and offer tickets to games/events/theatre. If we're in Mentor Duluth, we all have ID cards along with our staff/faculty ID's. We're always encouraged to participate off campus it would be great if UMD would support this more often and publicize it's "Mentor Duluth" night at...(fill in the blank) event. I'd say offer them up to paired mentors/mentees who are not employees of UMD too....especially games that have low attendance. Why not get people in the stands and influence our youth to experience some of these things they might not otherwise get to see while supporting our teams and future alumni? Thanks!

I agree with Jerry Pepper's comment about"grounded in liberal arts". It makes me as a scientist feel left out??

I like what Lisa says about fostering an environment/creating an environment for learning. The students and faculty should work together in such an environment experimenting and learning together. Higher Ed is already shifted way too far to the client/ product/ service provider model. Let's be bold and do something different and "swim against the current!"

Jerry, I'm stunned you would say what you do about Liberal Arts. Maybe what I'm not understanding is that you meant we SHOULD be grounded in the Liberal Arts and we aren't. With that I would agree. Again, we say we are about liberal arts, but this isn't where I see the emphasis in building on campus and in program focus. We should listen carefully when my office mate, Weng Hong Song, talks to the Campus in April about Higher Ed in China. A move is a foot to reintroduce a Collegiate Unit that has been absent in China since the Cultural Revolution: Liberal Arts.

My point yesterday was that we don't so much serve the region of Lake Superior as it serves us. "The University of Minnesota serves the people of the Lake Superior region, Minnesota and beyond".

We are inspired, in art, research, science, language, and almost everything by what the natural resources of this lake and region put in our hands.

I think Lake Superior and the region of northern Minnesota are our point of difference from other colleges. It is unique in the draw of beauty and landscape, but it also is rich in "research, generating knowledge", waiting to be explored.

Can we capture the uniqueness without sounding like we have mastered it?

I'm a little worried about the jargon creeping into the mission statement (April 4 version). "Integrative" is a rather obscure term. Isn't there a clearer way to say whatever it is that means?

As to the inclusion of "learning centered" - I fear that I liked "student centered" better because it is a clearer and stronger statement of identity. "Learning centered" can mean almost anything so I'm not sure it adds much (e.g my research is me learning, so I am learning centered!)

I should also say that I liked how the old mission statement tried to address the role of UMD in the state as neither a liberal arts college nor a large research oriented university - we seem to have lost that in this mission statement and also in the goals, vision, etc. I think articulating why a student might want to come to Duluth rather than Morris or the Twin Cities is still a worthwhile thing (without naming names or putting anyplace down of course).

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