Assessment and Outcomes

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Mission Statement: Defining What's Most Important

The Mission Statement is the initial point of reference for any program or course. It is a concise statement of the general values and principles which guide the curriculum. In broad strokes it sets a tone and a philosophical position from which follow a program's goals and objectives; therefore the mission statement is also a statement of program vision. The mission statement can and should be brief. However, it is not an isolated document. Rather, it is the cornerstone of a the curricular structure , defining the very broadest curricular principles and the larger context in which more specific curricular goals will fit. The program mission statement should define the broad purposes the program is aiming to achieve, describe the community the program is designed to serve, and state the values and guiding principles which define its standards.

Program mission statements must also be consistent with the principles of purpose set forth in the University's mission and goals statements; therefore, a good starting point for any program mission statement is to consider how the program mission supports or complements the University mission and strategic goals.

Paraphrasing from several versions of Western's Mission Statement:

The mission of Western Washington University is to provide to Washington State students a high quality undergraduate education which nurtures the intellectual, ethical, social, physical, and emotional development of each student, through:

  1. A common, broad-based mastery of the fundamental concepts, history, perspectives, and significance of the arts, sciences, social sciences, and humanities; and
  2. Baccalaureate and master's degree major programs of a practical and applied nature directed to the educational, economic, and cultural needs of Washington State residents.

These mission elements are further elaborated in Western's Strategic Plan, which emphasizes three broad goals of educational quality, multicultural enrichment, and community service.

The program mission statement must serve as a link between departmental goals and objectives on the one hand, and University mission and goals on the other; it must also demonstrate logical internal consistency among program mission, goals, objectives, and outcomes.

As a result, writing the mission statement is an iterative process of successive approximations:

  • first approximation of mission
  • first approximation of goals
  • first approximation of objectives
  • second approximation of mission, etc.

Therefore, in the initial stages of mission development, a rough listing of the main purposes of a program, and how it fits into the larger mission and goals of the University, might be adequate before moving on to first approximations of program goals and objectives.