When the strategic plan was adopted by the Board of Trustees in 2002, it was the culmination of an extended process involving various University constituencies. A broadly representative committee had met for several months to develop a consensus around the ideas central to the vision and strategic plan. There was also a period of public comment and discussion on the draft version. This included a discussion on the subject at the annual faculty retreat, which is attended by most full-time faculty.
Thus, the adoption by the Board of Trustees was the final step in a long process with comprehensive involvement by the various constituencies. The mission and vision statements have not been pieces of paper sitting on the back of the desk. The Board in its decision-making has used the mission-centered principles to guide action.
For example, while concerned about the financial viability of the Thailand campus, the Board in its budget decision-making has supported continuation of the campus there because it represents an important example of the “commitment to international education.”
The Board continues to demonstrate active engagement with the University community without seeking to micromanage daily activities. As an illustration, the Board President recently met for separate two-hour sessions with the student government and the faculty senate, and reported in depth on these meetings to the full board. A stated objective of these meetings was to make sure the Board understood the views and perspectives of these important University constituent groups. While the discussion topics did not focus solely on mission topics, it is obviously vital for the important constituencies to have the same perspective on the mission and vision of the future.
The self-study task force was curious about how the varied constituencies understood the mission of the University. During the self-study period several groups were used as focus groups in an attempt to ascertain whether the varied constituencies of the University understood and articulated the mission of the University in the same way.
We did not expect all would necessarily use the exact words contained in the mission statement. But, if in one’s own words, the constituents were able to articulate the essential mission document ideas, this would represent strong evidence of a shared understanding.
Each group was asked to list on a piece of paper three sentences or phrases that “you believe represent the core of the mission of the University”. The compilation of those responses is attached.
[EXHIBIT: HLC1c.1 Focus Group Responses]
|HLC1c.1-1||Focus Group Responses: Master Table|
|HLC1c.1-2||Focus Group Responses: Survey Instructions|
|HLC1c.1-3||Focus Group Responses: Questionnaire|
|HLC1c.1-4||Focus Group Responses: Chairs|
|HLC1c.1-5||Focus Group Responses: Alumni Board|
|HLC1c.1-6||Focus Group Responses: Development Staff|
|HLC1c.1-7||Focus Group Responses: Faculty Senate|
|HLC1c.1-8||Focus Group Responses: Health Admin. Grad Students|
|HLC1c.1-9||Focus Group Responses: Leiden|
|HLC1c.1-10||Focus Group Responses: Political Science Students|
|HLC1c.1-11||Focus Group Responses: Thailand|
Among those participating were: Faculty Senate, academic department chairs, the Administrative Council, the alumni board, development and public relations staff, faculty students and staff at two of the international campus locations, and students in graduate and undergraduate classes in St. Louis.
When we examined the responses as a whole, we found recurring themes. We did not expect and did not find verbatim language from the mission and vision statements in the groups.
|Mission Concept||Mission Statement Language||Respondents' Phrases|
42% of respondents
|Promotes international perspectives in the curriculum and among students and faculty||"international education"
"to provide an international education/experience to students"
"Global higher ed-internationalization"
|Educate diverse population
27% of respondents
|Accessible to individuals of diverse ages, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds; Educates diverse populations||"educate students from all backgrounds and nationalities"
"ethnically diverse. Giving equal opportunities to all despite race or color"
|Theory and practice
21% of respondents
|Develops educational programs that join theory and practice||"provide a real-world practical education"
"providing real-world educational experience for working adults"
The table above illustrates the most common themes in the focus groups, and compares them to the actual language in the mission/vision statements.
As Webster University has grown there has been the danger that the more autonomous subparts will grow increasingly isolated from each other, and have less of a shared perspective. This is a problem with every institution as it grows and becomes more differentiated. The focus group outcomes seem to indicate the core mission ideas are still pervasive throughout the University.
Many of the subunits of the University (such as the academic Colleges and Schools) also have their own mission statements. While each reflects the major responsibilities and activities in their domain, there are common themes that pervade across these mission statements and indicate a common core of vision and value that reflect a common University mission that is unifying.
[EXHIBIT: HLC0 Mission Statements]
|HLC0||Mission Statement - Webster University|
|HLC0a||College of Arts/Science Mission|
|HLC0b||Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts Mission|
|HLC0c||School of Business/Tech Mission|
|HLC0d||School of Communications Mission|
|HLC0e||School of Education Mission|