Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

Mission, Performance Indicators, and Assessment in U. S. Honors: A View from the Netherlands

Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

Mission, Performance Indicators, and Assessment in U. S. Honors: A View from the Netherlands

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

A mission statement that identifies the goals and aims of an honors program is a key step in program development. The NCHC's Basic Characteristics of a Fully Developed Honors Program states unequivocally that a successful honors program "has a clear mandate from the institution's administration in the form of a mission statement or charter document that includes the objectives and responsibilities of honors and defines the place of honors in the administrative and academic structure of the institution." According to Mrozinski, mission statements are public definitions of purpose published in a college's catalog, website, or other planning documents and are generally required by accrediting bodies. Such mission statements have now become standard for honors programs and colleges.

Before we examine the online mission statements of current honors programs, we need to look at the history of such statements outside the academic world. Mission statements have long been standard in the for-profit sector, where they specify what the company does, how it does it, why it does it, and where it is going in the future. A mission statement can transform a leader's vision into substance in the profit-sector (Drucker). Stone uses the Quaker State Corporation in 1993 as corporate example of the strength of a mission statement. The company had fallen on hard times, and, fearing a possible takeover, the Quaker State board redefined its core mission: "To funnel a wide range of lubricants through a massive network of mechanics, retailers and drive-through lube shops" (Murray). By 1995, Quaker State had transformed itself from a company selling motor oil to a branded consumer-products company, a solid number two behind Pennzoil. "Clearly, the new mission played a key role in shaping Quaker's turnaround" (Murray). In the context of healthcare, Bart concluded in 1999 that sufficient evidence existed to "challenge those critics and cynics who liked to pronounce (unjustifiably) that mission statements were not important or that there was no direct link between a mission statement and performance" (19).

Mission statements are crucial for nonprofit organizations as well, where achieving the mission is analogous to making a profit in the private sector (Brinckerhoff). In their book Profiles of Excellence, a study of achieving excellence in the nonprofit sector, Knauft, Berger, and Gray found in 1999 that the key to success was having a clearly articulated mission statement along with goals to carry out the mission. At the same time that mission statements were becoming standard in the for-profit and nonprofit worlds, colleges and universities in the U.S. were also embracing the value of an articulated mission statement (Morphew). Already in 1994, the Association of American Colleges found that 80% of all universities and colleges were revising their mission statements. Finally, a well-articulated mission statement seems also a basic need for honors programs (Morphew): it gives a shared sense of purpose in the institution (457); it manages the expectations of external publics like prospective students and parents (469); it is required by accrediting bodies (458); and virtually all honors programs have one (458).

According to online mission statements of honors programs, directors and faculty want to achieve more than providing a comfortable environment for participating students. They want their students, for instance, "to become intellectually engaged and socially responsible, and to remain so throughout their lives" (Spelman College). Ideally, an honors program translates its mission into specific goals, creates a set of performance indicators, and assesses the outgoing students to see whether they live up to the mission at the end of the honors program and thereafter: "Note that goals typically flow from the mission statement, and outcomes are aligned with goals. In addition, the program's mission, goals and outcomes should relate to the mission and goals of the college and institution' (Charles Drew University). …

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