On Mission and Function: Transformation Requires Strategy

As we close out the fall semester, it is important to reflect on where we are with respect to our goals for this year, not only as individuals but as an institution. In September, after gathering input from across the university, we laid out 20 strategic initiatives on which we would focus our efforts this year. Next week, the Provost will provide an update on the status of each of those initiatives and how we are progressing toward achieving our 3-Year University Strategic Plan.

As context for that report, and the quarterly updates that will follow, we must remember the mission in which our strategic plan is rooted. Middle Georgia State University educates and graduates inspired, lifelong learners whose scholarship and careers enhance the region through professional leadership, innovative partnerships and community engagement.

This semester, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia clarified BOR Policy 2.10 on Institutional Mission and Function. The Board emphasized that the mission of the USG is achieved through the collective missions of the state’s public colleges and universities. Beyond mission, each institution also has a function, which determines its scope of activity and covers five aspects: 1) the level at which it operates, 2) the type of degree programs offered, 3) tuition and fees, 4) admissions selectivity and the degree to which it serves a primary point of access for under-represented students in its geographic region, and 5) its engagement in teaching, research, and service.

As of last fall, we at Middle Georgia State have a university mission. That means we are approved to offer graduate programs. Our first two graduate programs—the Master of Information Technology and Master of Science in Nursing—launched in January and will see its first degrees awarded next week. Once approved by our accreditors as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, we plan to launch two more graduate programs of study in 2017: a Master of Science in Management and a Master of Arts in Teaching.

Beyond graduate studies, our university mission requires us to operate at a higher level and to expand our engagement in teaching, research, and community service. Yet, based on the degree to which we serve traditionally under-represented students in Middle Georgia—and to the fact our tuition is the lowest in the state university sector—we have very much retained the access function on which this institution was built.

What does this mean for our work? It means that unless our strategy and goals are rooted in our values of Stewardship, Engagement, Adaptability, and Learning, we cannot succeed in achieving our university mission and access function. Our university mission with access function reflects American time-honored principles of academic excellence and broad opportunity.  The complex nature of a mission and function that are not either/or but both/and makes for some challenges, but the transformation in which it results is absolutely worth it.

More on transformation next week, as we celebrate Fall 2016 Commencement!