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Mission Statements

by Glenn Lang

– Mission statements generally, state an organization’s purpose, why it exists, what its overall goals are, the broad goals of the operation, what service(s) it provides, and its primary target population. Mission statements are essential in large private organizations, educational institutions, non-profits, and individual units within organizations. In the case of many externally funded programs, besides the funder’s goals or statutes, why do you exist, who do you serve and what are the broad goals for those you serve.

While many colleges and universities have broad, ideal-sounding mission statements, are all populations equally or successfully served with the stated goals? It has become fashionable for individual units/offices and programs to develop and display their own mission statements. To inform users/constituents of their role within the larger organization. Having a unit mission statement can help inform how a particular unit aligns with and contributes to the overall mission of the organization.

Programs, (e.g., opportunity programs) that are statutorily required and/or externally funded, face an additional challenge of balancing the mission and demands of the external funder, such as state or federal agency, and the mission (and culture) of the local institution. The pressure to align and balance both internal organizational missions and goals with that of external funders can be immense, especially when it involves serving constituencies that have been historically underrepresented or the institution has not had a commitment to serve in the past.

What are we trying to accomplish to our purpose?


Developing an organizational or unit mission statement is a critical first step in any planning process. It should not be singular event but rather a shared activity because it really becomes a broad statement of telling the world and ourselves who we are, what we do, who we serve, what do we hope to accomplish and in how we contribute to the larger organization.

But what about vision and values? Well, they are critical to completing the essential foundation of our efforts. Stay tuned.

Three arrows pointing to vision, mission and core values