Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Undergraduate Mission Statement

Last week I found this in my inbox. I was a little amused because, with all the epmhasis on becoming a top-notch post-grad research institution, the undergraduate part of the University has not been given enough attention. Did they suddenly wake up one day thinking that we need a powerfuly, punchy statement about the mission of Notre Dame undergraduates to equal that of the graduate school so it seems less like they're forgetting the undergrads?

Dear Students,

As you may know the University of Notre Dame is currently without a vision statement for undergraduate education. Recently a group of faculty, students, and other ND community members was charged with working together to produce just such a statement. There are many potential problems with producing a one page statement about an institution’s vision for undergraduate education, but there are also amazing benefits (if it is done well). I would like to invite you to participate in this process by
where you will find the current draft statement and links to previous drafts.

The individuals responsible for the current draft see this process as an opportunity to help in the creation of an aspirational statement that can enable an overt recognition and enhancement of what we do in undergraduate education. This statement can serve as a concise guide to what we believe to be the core processes and outcomes for our undergraduate education. We hope that the final statement can be a document that faculty, students, and administrators alike will refer to for core values, intents, and aspirational goals.

I invite you to read the draft and to utilize the comments area to let myself and the members of the committee know your thoughts and suggestions. I guarantee that your comments will be read and your suggestions considered. After the web commentary period (April 23– May 16) we hope to move early in Fall 2008 into a series of discussions via focus groups to help finalize the statement.

Thank you for your attention and consideration of this document and this process.

In my opinion, we don't need an undergraduate vision statement. Why does anyone choose to go to Notre Dame and, after four years, would they be able to choose the single most important thing they've learned as something which ALL undergrads should strive for?


Brandon said...

I agree this is a waste of time. We are going to spend time deliberating over a vision statement that is just going to be posted on the admissions website and forgotten. The professor who is in charge of this could better spend his time on other projects, I hear that he has pretty good rep already. Why waste his time with this project?

Anonymous said...

No doubt, the desire is to speed along the Dying of the Light process that Notre Dame greased some time back for the accolades of the seculars whose opinions aren't worth dirt in comparision to those who are Notre Dame.

Tom B. said...

Hey, it probably costs money to do stuff like this. And since we're making plenty these days...

Anonymous said...

how many students fresh from high school actually look at mission statements? don't they pay more attention to national rankings, social life, academic strength, location, strength of their intended field than some generic statement about "saving the world the Notre Dame way"?

Rachel said...

I'm not sure we need to pick on the University administration for the undergrad mission statement. It didn't arise out of a feeling of forgetting undergrads--they're pushing research for us, too. But it sure does exhibit a lot of the tension between different visions of what a Catholic undergraduate education should be.

Why not comment constructively on the statement itself (which is, coincidentally, what the email was asking the student body to do)?

The latest draft:

Drawing on our Catholic intellectual tradition, which celebrates the compatibility of faith and reason, Notre Dame offers an undergraduate education rooted in the fundamental belief that all truths participate in the divine truth, a belief that authorizes and motivates the vigorous search for knowledge in all its forms.

As members of a vibrant academic community dedicated to scholarship and the advancement of knowledge, students will find opportunities at Notre Dame to develop initiative and leadership, and to learn by being fully engaged in our classrooms, libraries, research laboratories, studios, and residence halls. Notre Dame seeks to nurture in its students intellectual passion and a keenly developed ethical sense, goals attainable only where freedom of thought and expression flourishes.

We hope to inspire students to pursue learning as a good in itself, and to see that pursuit as involving the whole person. We cultivate each student's capacity to think creatively and critically while valuing the rich inheritance that comes from our shared past. We expect our graduates to be conversant with and equipped to contribute to the best thinking across the disciplines. We prepare them to become leaders in their professions, in their communities, in the church, and in our nation.

As a community committed to service, we challenge students to grow in their understanding of complex human realities, and we call them to respond to the needs of the world with compassion and committed action. By educating students to be intelligently engaged by their faith and knowledgeable about and open toward the faiths of others, we aspire to offer an education that is catholic in the broadest sense of the word, both in welcoming all persons of good will to our university community and turning outward to embrace the larger world.

Formed by an authentic liberal education and possessed of mature faith in service to others, graduates leave Notre Dame prepared to take their places at the forefront of human achievement, innovation, and discovery.

As for my take on it...I find it sufficiently vague enough to seemingly appease the 'orthodox' faction on campus (seemingly--because I am not appeased) while still officially defending some of the muted buzzwords.

"Feedom of thought and expression" are to "flourish" at ND. We are supposed "to think creatively and critically while valuing the rich inheritance that comes from our shared past." Hmmm.

Somehow I'm not satisfied that the only mention of Catholicism and "divine truth" happens in the first paragraph...