The Challenge of a UNIQUE Vision

Emily Weber

Emily Weber

One of the biggest roadblocks to creating a strategic visioning plan is that it has to be a shared vision. And right now, I don’t think Indiana University of Pennsylvania has that.

Michele Papakie provided our team with the university’s vision, mission and core values and the 2007-2012 University Strategic Plan, and for the first time I see the relevance of our work. As of today, this is the mission and vision of my university:

Vision

Indiana University of Pennsylvania shall be among the nation’s leading universities, recognized for student success and educational attainment, research, cultural enrichment, and economic development.

Mission

Indiana University of Pennsylvania is a leading public, doctoral/research university, strongly committed to undergraduate and graduate instruction, scholarship, and public service.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania engages students as learners and leaders in an intellectually challenging, culturally enriched, and contemporarily diverse environment.

Inspired by a dedicated faculty and staff, students become productive national and world citizens who exceed expectations personally and professionally.

Core Values

Access with Opportunity to Succeed
Engaged Learning
Student-Centered
Diversity
Civility
Global Awareness
Accountability
Shared Governance

Don’t get me wrong, this is eloquent and professional. It’s just not unique from the other thousand universities in the country. It’s not even unique among Pennsylvania’s other 13 state schools, as we discovered yesterday…

The things that jumped out at me, the things I haven’t seen in other universities’ mission statements, were the phrases “inspired by a dedicated faculty and staff” and “access with opportunity to succeed.” Both of these things are ideas we’ve been hearing from students, faculty and administrators when we ask them what makes IUP distinct from other universities. Time and time again, I’ve heard students say that they appreciate the strong relationships they have with their professors and the fact that they’re taught by doctoral candidates and PhDs, not TAs who are two years older than them. That’s a rarity among large universities nowadays, and it’s something I think we need to highlight.

IUP also provides access to higher education for students who might not otherwise get it. I don’t want that to sound like I’m describing my school as cheap or lazy or any of the other derogatory terms that get thrown around when we talk about cost vs. opportunity. Because my school is not “cheap” — it’s reasonable for me, the daughter of two middle-class parents who didn’t graduate from college themselves. And not just the tuition and fees, but the cost of living in town is also affordable. I can pay my rent and tuition just by working and using government student loans, and I’m very grateful for that. None of the other schools I looked at would have given me that kind of access.

Nor is my school lazy or populated by students who “just didn’t make it” into better universities. Some of the brightest, most capable people I’ve met in my life are IUP students. Anybody who doesn’t think we’re actively doing Ivy League-caliber work in our fields clearly hasn’t been on the News & Events page of the university’s website. We’re successful students by anybody’s standards, but it’s not a difficult school to afford. I’m glad we’ve at least partially captured that.

So to make a long story short, I strongly identify with a couple of phrases in our vision, mission and value statements. But it should be more than a couple–as a student (soon-to-be-alumna!), I should feel that my university’s mission is actually different from others, and I should feel like I’m a part of a shared vision. I hope that’s the result of the 2013 Strategic Visioning Project.

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