Quinnipiac University College of Arts and Sciences

Mission Critical?

In Campus, Teaching on November 14, 2011 at 5:43 pm

By David Valone, Professor of History

As the College of Arts and Sciences engages in the process re-drafting our mission statement, it is perhaps a good opportunity to consider a bit more widely how we got where we are, and where we might be heading.

What is our current Mission Statement? That question is a bit more complicated that one might think.

On our CAS webpage on MyQ it is as follows:

“At Quinnipiac University, we believe your education must look to the future–your own future and the future of the society in which you live and work. In the College of Arts and Sciences, our courses, faculty and outstanding internship opportunities are all available to help you realize your potential. The College is responsible for much of the University Curriculum that makes up 40 percent of your study, and offers 19 majors (editors note: we have 20 majors) to provide the skills required to be involved and successful in a complex society.

In the College of Arts and Sciences, innovative programs emphasize connections between what you are learning and the world where your efforts will have an impact. We place great emphasis on critical thinking, informed action and creativity. Today, more than ever, the basics of an arts and sciences education provide a critical foundation as you acquire the skills of your specialty. Majors in a variety of fields prepare you for the personal and professional challenges you will experience throughout your life.

Quinnipiac’s arts and sciences program challenges you to examine your relationship to a society increasingly defined by global awareness and a diversity of populations. Our internship programs in particular allow you to gain work experience and define your values in communities and organizations outside Quinnipiac. Moreover, we provide opportunities for you to realize your creative energies.

The College of Arts and Sciences offers a first-rate education and preparation for successful careers in a range of fields. We teach you to think for yourself and about your world.”

Much of this, upon some research, is based upon the old School/College of Liberal Arts Mission statement which goes back at least to 1995.

The University catalog–at least since 2008–offers something different as our mission:

“The faculty and students of the College of Arts and Sciences share a belief in the value of a comprehensive college education–an education that requires foundational study in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, as well as a concentration in one of 20 majors. A degree in  arts and sciences helps students build fulfilling and meaningful lives, and provides a strong basis for a preprofesional education. Careers in the 21st century require great creativity, critical thinking, and fine writing. The ability to think is more important than any narrow job preparation. The arts and sciences curricula require demanding study while providing extensive faculty support in small classes and laboratories.

Whether a student is pursuing a B.S or B.A degree, he or she is part of a learning community in which students and faculty are makers of knowledge, not simply receivers and dispensers. Faculty and students study and experience a society increasingly defined by global scientific and cultural awareness and a diversity of populations…”

What does a critical examination of these two “missions” offer us? First, it seems interesting that the first (older) mission statement is about structure and process–courses, majors and the University Curriculum. The second, more recent statement, is much more about values, knowledge, and learning, and how we envision the process of becoming an educated individual fitting into the world of today and tomorrow.

What should our new mission be? And what should it emphasize?

These are the questions that we are currently grappling with under the direction of our New Synthesis steering committee. Why re-consider our mission? We, the University, and our world are changing perhaps more fundamentally than many of us realize. We have new faculty, new departments, and vibrant leadership. We also have an institution that has been, and continues to, reinvent itself.

As we rethink and revise our mission, we participate in critical conversations not only about our present and future at Quinnipiac, we also share in the wider debate about what it will mean to be a liberally educated person in the 21st century. Some perspective on this can be gained by examining the AAC & U’s declaration on Liberal Learning from their website, reprinted below.

http://www.aacu.org/About/statements/liberal_learning.cfm

“A truly liberal education is one that prepares us to live responsible, productive, and creative lives in a dramatically changing world. It is an education that fosters a well-grounded intellectual resilience, a disposition toward lifelong learning, and an acceptance of responsibility for the ethical consequences of our ideas and actions. Liberal education requires that we understand the foundations of knowledge and inquiry about nature, culture and society; that we master core skills of perception, analysis, and expression; that we cultivate a respect for truth; that we recognize the importance of historical and cultural context; and that we explore connections among formal learning, citizenship, and service to our communities.

We experience the benefits of liberal learning by pursuing intellectual work that is honest, challenging, and significant, and by preparing ourselves to use knowledge and power in responsible ways. Liberal learning is not confined to particular fields of study. What matters in liberal education is substantial content, rigorous methodology and an active engagement with the societal, ethical, and practical implications of our learning. The spirit and value of liberal learning are equally relevant to all forms of higher education and to all students.

Because liberal learning aims to free us from the constraints of ignorance, sectarianism, and myopia, it prizes curiosity and seeks to expand the boundaries of human knowledge. By its nature, therefore, liberal learning is global and pluralistic. It embraces the diversity of ideas and experiences that characterize the social, natural, and intellectual world. To acknowledge such diversity in all its forms is both an intellectual commitment and a social responsibility, for nothing less will equip us to understand our world and to pursue fruitful lives.

The ability to think, to learn, and to express oneself both rigorously and creatively, the capacity to understand ideas and issues in context, the commitment to live in society, and the yearning for truth are fundamental features of our humanity. In centering education upon these qualities, liberal learning is societyÌs best investment in our shared future.”

As we adapt ideas like these, and synthesize them with our own priorities, values, and institutional culture, we have the opportunity not only to create a more engage learning community here in the College of Arts and Sciences, but across the University and beyond into the world around us.

It is an exciting time for us, and for our students.

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