This mission influences almost everything we do, from curriculum choices to extracurricular events. Put in its most basic terms, the mission means all members of the Missouri State community are encouraged to contribute to society. This is the first in a series of essays meant to give alumni and friends of the University a deeper understanding of the mission and why it enhances the University’s reputation and our degrees.
As societal issues increasingly pose challenges to us, our students and our community, the need to work for the common good becomes more critical. Missouri State University, with its public affairs mission, is well-situated to provide leadership.
A mission for the State
Our University received a statewide mission in public affairs in June 1995, when Senate Bill 340 was signed into law. This was done at the urging of then-University President John H. Keiser and the Missouri State Board of Governors. A clearer articulation of the mission has developed in the last few years, culminating in an action from the Faculty Senate during spring 2009 in which goals were adopted in each of three distinct areas:
- ethical leadership
- cultural competence
- community engagement
This development of specific goals related to the public affairs mission signals the significance of the mission and the importance of its integration into the curriculum. Community engagement, cultural competence and ethical leadership are evident in the curriculum of all the colleges and in every department. Units demonstrate the mission in different ways; however, all of them affect not only the campus community but also the larger community.
For example, more than 1,800 students engaged in service-learning projects last year through their coursework. These students logged nearly 50,000 service hours.
Another high-impact experience for students is study-away trips. Last year, more than 200 students engaged in short- and long-term study- away trips all over the world. Clearly, these students had an opportunity to develop cultural competence; however, many students came away from these experiences with much more than that.
Many opportunities to learn about the tenets of the mission exist within the classroom where students, faculty and the community are bound together. Opportunities are found beyond the classroom as well. The division of student affairs promotes student engagement on- and off- campus. All of these opportunities build skills in our students that will ultimately benefit the larger community.
Through the public affairs support office, the Missouri State campus unites the talents of our faculty with scholars and practitioners from around the country and beyond through our Public Affairs Convocation series and the annual Public Affairs Conference. Our yearly public affairs themes, such as “Sustainability” and “Evolving Economic Realities,” provide valuable opportunities for campus and community members to work together. And although yearly themes come and go, the good work is not lost. For example, we continue to have a sustainability committee that seeks ways to improve our use of resources on campus and beyond. This committee hosted a Sustainability Conference this past fall.
So many aspects of the public affairs mission have direct benefit to not only the Missouri State community, but also to the community beyond. Our mission centers us within the community. We must continue to unite our efforts to work through the challenges we face. The public affairs mission gives us an ideal framework through which to do so.
Dr. Rachelle L. Darabi
Associate Provost for Student
Development and Public Affairs