The Oregon Board of Higher Education is scheduled to meet 10/3/08 on the campus of Southern Oregon University in Ashland. On the agenda for discussion is an item titled “Review of Institution Mission Statements and Broad Goals,” meaning:
As the next step toward implementation of the “OUS Portfolio,” the Board will consider
mission statements of all OUS institutions in anticipation of an action item in November
on one or more of them, discuss broad goals and directions of institutions in relation to
those mission statements, and provide guidance to institutions regarding next steps in
shaping their mission statements for future Board approval.
Now I have had my problems with the Oregon University System. The world has become smaller, flatter and more interconnected thus increasing the utility of foreign languages for maintaining a competitive economy. And strategically, the rise of China as an economic and geopolitical power requires a response. We should be increasing all foreign languages study, but with a clear focus on increased Mandarin studies. And we should be vastly increasing study abroad programs at the college level. This all seems obvious to me.
I have repeatedly written the members of the Board of Higher Education on these issues. No response from them. To my knowledge, during the past two years, neither the Board of Higher Education, nor the Chancellor, nor any of the seven institutional presidents, has taken any action to increase the number of OUS students studying Mandarin. Even worse, the Board of Higher Education’s Portland Higher Education Subcommittee produced a documents: “Portland’s Higher Education Agenda for the 21st Century” that did not even mention China. In February, 2007, OSU, U of O, and PSU each reported to the Oregon House Education Committee that they currently had about 1.5% of their students studying Mandarin. China may well have an economy twice the size of the US economy by 2050. 1.5% is just not adequate. Not if Oregon wants to be a player in the global economy.
So, that’s my perspective. But, is Higher Ed not responding to this high priority, strategic need because it is not in their mission statements to do so? Or because we do not have the right leaders at the institutional level? Or because we do not have the right Board members? Or because the Governor and legislature are not urging them to take action on this issue? Or because any or all of the above players do not consider Mandarin and study abroad a high priority issue?
Let’s look at the current mission statement of our three premier institutions (see here, starts on page 59)
Oregon StateUniversity Mission Statement
As a land grant institution, Oregon State University promotes economic, social, cultural and environmental progress for people across Oregon, the nation and the world through our graduates, research, scholarship and engagement activities.
Portland State University Mission Statement
The mission of Portland State University is to enhance the intellectual, social, cultural,
and economic qualities of urban life by providing access throughout the life span to a
quality liberal education for undergraduates and an appropriate array of professional
and graduate programs especially relevant to metropolitan areas. The University
conducts research and community service that support a high-quality educational
environment and reflect issues important to the region. It actively promotes the
development of a network of educational institutions to serve the community.
University of Oregon Mission Statement (summarized)
The University is a community of scholars dedicated to the highest standards of
academic inquiry, learning, and service. Recognizing that knowledge is the fundamental
wealth of civilization, the University strives to enrich the public that sustains it through:
(1) a commitment to undergraduate and graduate education…; (2) a recognition that
research, both basic and applied, is essential to the intellectual health of the University,
as well as to the enrichment of the lives of Oregonians…; (3) the establishment of a
framework for lifelong learning…; (4) the integration of teaching, research, and service
as mutually enriching enterprises…; (5) …welcoming and guiding change rather than
reacting to it; (6) dedication to the principles of equality of opportunity…; (7) a
commitment to international awareness and understanding…; (8) …freedom of thought
and expression…; (9) cultivation of an attitude toward citizenship that fosters… the wise
exercise of civic responsibilities and individual judgment; and (10) a continuing
commitment to affordable public higher education.
Several observations: (1) None of these mission statements would prohibit an institution from expanding its Mandarin and study abroad programs; (2) None of these mission statements gives direct support or priority to efforts to expand Mandarin and study abroad programs. (3) Therefore, perhaps, these mission statements are mostly irrelevant and the problem rests with the people interpreting them (Board members, Chancellor, and institutional presidents).
Recommendation: that each mission statement adds a phrase “provide education and develop student skills so that the next generation of Oregonian citizens can survive and prosper in the future global economy and geo-political environment.”