As we get ready for the holidays and the holiday break, I want to bring everyone up-to-date about what we have been doing in the College of Arts and Letters (COAL). Let me catch you up on the last six months.
COAL’s new mission statement and slogan
I will open this blog by sharing COAL’s new mission statement and slogan, then I’ll tell you the story of how we got “there.”
New Mission Statement:
The College of Arts and Letters is dedicated to the success of our students. Our rigorous programs provide a solid platform for personal growth and professional preparation. We are proud of our mission to nurture literacy in the arts and letters, stimulate self-reflection and build critical thinking while fostering excellence and fueling the creative passions of our students.
Uniting Passion and Creativity
Who are we in COAL?
We started early in the summer to review our college identity, with particular attention to our mission statement (shown below) and slogan (“The College of Human Expression”). The mission statement, in particular, did not inspire us (in fact, we thought it was boring). It was so generic that it could have fit any college, in any university. It didn’t seem to say anything about us. Here is what we started with:
The College of Arts & Letters promotes learning, scholarship, and service to the broader community in all aspects of human communication — spoken, written, visual, musical, dramatic, and electronically mediated. With support for general education and with discipline-specific degrees, both undergraduate and graduate, we aim to foster intellectual independence, expressive competence, and aesthetic appreciation within the traditional arenas of arts and letters. We also aim to instill the desire and capability for lifelong learning, in keeping with the advancements of our disciplines and their technologies. In the departments and programs of the College, we enhance students’ creative and performance skills, sharpen students’ communication effectiveness in a variety of languages and media, and prepare students to be effective professionals and community members. We hope to model an attitude of respect for diverse cultures, traditions, values, ideas, and ways of knowing.
We had three planning retreats this summer, involving the department heads, the staff, and the three associate deans in separate meetings before coming together in several joint meetings this fall. In each case, we had free-flowing discussions about who we are—what are the characteristics of our college that distinguish us from other colleges, that define us. Collectively, we identified four factors that seem to define COAL: We are passionate, creative, student-centered, and fun. This was our starting point in creating our new mission statement.
We weren’t crazy about our slogan, either. Our college was formed in the early 1980s as an administrative convenience (which is true to some extent of all colleges). But unlike, say, the College of Business or the College of Education, our original six (now seven) departments didn’t appear to have a unifying set of curricula, practices, or goals. We struggled for a long time to find a common thread to pull us together. We finally concluded that what we have in common is that we all participate in human expression, whether that is through people communicating with one another directly (through written and spoken words) or indirectly (through vehicles including music, theatre, dance, visual arts). Thus, we agreed that COAL was “The College of Human Expression.” But that slogan didn’t especially excite us. COAL folks are nothing if not creative. We love, and are good at, fostering our students’ passion and enthusiasm. Those characteristics led us to a slogan we liked better: Uniting Passion and Creativity.
We have started to use the new mission and slogan in our materials, including our website. Our next step will be to update our logo, which currently is a spray that looks like a fountain. As before, we want something more exciting, and we will be asking our Design students to help create a fresher, more exciting look.
Goals for COAL
We think we have a pretty terrific college! Our faculty are superb; our students are bright, creative, and eager to learn; and we have a supportive central administration that supports us in numerous ways. Our primary goal may sound ambitious but we think it’s attainable: We want to be the number one choice for any Missouri high school graduate who plans to study in any of our programs, and we want to be in the top three for any high school graduate from throughout our region of surrounding states. We want people to say, “The best place to go for art (design, communication, English, media, journalism, film, modern and classical languages, music, theatre and dance) is Missouri State’s College of Arts and Letters.” And, we are not far off this goal!
To cite a few examples, we have the largest music and art education programs in the state, our graduates in professional/technical writing have a virtually 100% placement rate upon graduation, our debate program is competitive with larger and better funded programs from top-tier schools, our theatre and dance graduates appear across the country in Broadway and touring productions of major shows, our Foreign Language Institute represents an innovative collaboration among five area colleges and universities, and a recent alum from our film program was honored as outstanding young alum at Homecoming this year. Students from every department excel at their chosen fields, and the Missouri Fine Arts Academy, for talented high school students, brings sophomores and juniors to campus for three weeks in the summer to immerse themselves in the arts.
For these and other reasons, we are well respected throughout the state and region for our arts and letters programs. What we need to do is to make sure people know how good we are! We are working to tell our story, and this we will be our focus for the next few years.
As we head into the holidays (and I’m looking at the snow falling outside my office window as I write this), I wish you all a wonderful holiday season, and a safe one! May the joys of the season bring you happiness and peace!
And if you want to play Santa for the college and help us achieve our goals, you may want to take a look at our Holiday Wish List of items for which we’d appreciate support! We wouldn’t turn down a gift from Santa to launch us into the new year!
Happy New Year to you all—