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Final Report on Adopting the Mission Statement
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Why we need a mission statement
From its opening in 1821, Amherst College grew and developed through deeply shared common purposes that were never articulated in a single official statement beyond the motto, Terras Irradient, “Let them give light to the world.” Over the decades, the aspirations to learning and service voiced by that motto have been articulated by Amherst Presidents [https://cms.amherst.edu/aboutamherst/philosophy]. Like all colleges and universities, we are now at a moment where we need to be more explicit about our identity and commitments–and all the more so because we are a small college with global purposes.
In 1998 NEASC requested that we adopt a mission statement to serve as the basis of our reaccreditation review in 2008. A member-run organization, NEASC evaluates institutions not by rigid, uniform standards but through an assessment of how effectively those institutions fulfill their declared missions. As an independent college, Amherst gains much from NEASC’s system of peer-review and from the protections it provides for academic freedom and institutional autonomy.
What a mission statement needs to do
The mission statement needs to identify what type of institution we are and what sets us apart from our peers. It needs sufficient specificity to serve as the basis of the self-study reports to be submitted to NEASC every ten years and the five-year interim reports. Along with expressing our shared aspirations, the language needs to be a guide to the Faculty, Administration, and Board of Trustees in making decisions about institutional direction.
NEASC describes the mission statement in the following terms: “The mission of the institution defines its distinctive character, addresses the needs of society and identifies the students the institution seeks to serve, and reflects both the institution’s traditions and its vision for the future. The institution’s mission provides the basis upon which the institution identifies its priorities, plans its future and evaluates its endeavors; it provides a basis for the evaluation of the institution against the Commission’s Standards.” (Standard 1.1)
The adoption process
Starting in September 2006, the Ad Hoc Faculty Advisory Group on Reaccreditation consulted broadly to consider what principles should be included in the mission statement and to discuss preliminary drafts. Groups consulted included alumni, faculty, students, administrators, the staff association (ACPP), the Student Senate, the Executive Committee of the Alumni Council, and the Instruction Committee of the Board of Trustees. From January 2007 onward, drafts were posted on this Website to invite commentary from all members of the Amherst community, including graduates.
On the basis of these consultations, the Advisory Group on March 13, 2007, submitted an interim report, including a revised draft, which was discussed and given preliminary approval at a Faculty Meeting on March 27. Incorporating changes requested by the Faculty, the Advisory Group presented a revised draft to the Board of Trustees on April 24. A slightly modified drafted was given final approval by the Faculty on May 18 and by the Trustees on May 26.
See the mission statement.