Core Component 1a
1a. Albion's mission documents are clear and articulate publicly the College's commitments.
Chartered in 1835 as a liberal arts institution, Albion College has remained committed to providing an academically challenging, undergraduate, residential experience for young men and women for 176 years. While specific words have changed over time in Albion's mission statements, ultimately the mission of the college has remained constant.(1) During the ten years since completion of the previous self-study, the College has engaged in a new strategic plan and has revisited and revised its statements of vision, mission, and core values. Sections of this chapter, therefore, deal with the process of revision, its inclusiveness, the results of that process, and how the college is engaging in implementation of the new mission and strategic plan. References are also made to the plan that was in place during the previous self-study (1999-2000) and re-affirmation of accreditation (2001).
Albion College's current mission documents are found in the strategic plan of 2008, which includes statements of mission, vision, and core values and strategic themes and initiatives. These documents are clear and articulate publicly the college's commitments.
At the time of Albion College's last reaffirmation of accreditation, a new strategic plan had very recently been adopted, and it formed the basis of a "special emphasis" self-study. That strategic plan was titled Liberal Arts at Work: Albion College's Vision for a Liberal Arts Education in the 21st Century.(2) It was described in the following manner:
The theme Liberal Arts at Work captures the essence of the Albion philosophy and an Albion education. For over 165 years, liberal arts have been at work on the Albion campus, inspiring faculty to teach with passion and to pursue original scholarship.... Indeed, the theme Liberal Arts at Work reflects the ethos of Albion College, a place where special, magical relationships among faculty, staff, and students flourish in an unfettered pursuit of knowledge and wisdom, a place that is joyously, even audaciously dedicated to transforming individual lives, the workplace, and society.
Liberal Arts at Work was composed of five elements: formulation of a new general education requirement; redesign of majors, minors, and concentrations; creation of the Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity (FURSCA); expansion of institutes; and creation of Centers for Interdisciplinary Study (CIS). Unfortunately, as has been described in an earlier section of this document, some of the elements of Liberal Arts at Work were not funded as expected and were either eliminated or not implemented.(3)[IM1] In the case of the first two elements, the general education requirement has gone through assessment and is currently under review while program review of majors, minors, and concentrations is being conducted by the College's Curriculum and Resources Committee (C&RC). After an attempt to implement them, the Centers for Interdisciplinary Study were eliminated. The College's commitment to interdisciplinary studies, however, is strong and has found its home in faculty development funding and support for team-taught interdisciplinary courses and interdisciplinary concentrations and programs. FURSCA remains vibrant and has twice been featured during the last decade in the quarterly publication of the Council for Undergraduate Research.(4) Furthermore, institutes as future-oriented centers of experiential learning are being reframed under Albion's new strategic plan.
At the October 24, 2008 meeting of the Board of Trustees, a new strategic plan for Albion College was formally adopted, comprised of new statements of mission, vision, core values, and strategic themes and initiatives.(5) These new documents drew on elements of the Statement of Purpose, which was adopted by the Board of Trustees in 1993,(6) and replaced the former strategic plan (which was also frequently called the "Vision"). Albion 2015, as the current strategic plan is titled, was provided to the campus community electronically and in print form to others.(7) Its key elements form much of the text of the following section.
As developed in conjunction with the strategic plan, the College's mission is the following:
Albion College is an undergraduate, liberal arts institution committed to academic excellence. We are learning centered and recognize that valuable learning takes place in and outside the classroom, on and off campus. We prepare students to translate critical thought into action.
The mission statement is available to external and internal constituencies of the College on the website by clicking on the link to "Mission" in "Quick Links" or going directly to the on-line Catalog.(8) It should be noted that the Catalog is no longer published in printed form. In addition to the availability of the mission statement on the website, students, faculty, staff, alumni board members, and trustees were issued mission cards in fall 2009 so that they would become familiar with the new mission statement.(9) Introduction to the College mission has also been woven into new student and trustee orientation. During the interview process for potential new faculty, the provost discusses the mission of the College and elements of the strategic plan with candidates.
Strategic planning had begun anew under President Donna M. Randall after she assumed the presidency of Albion College in 2007, succeeding Peter T. Mitchell who had developed Liberal Arts at Work. The strategic planning team consisted of members of the President's Administrative Council (PAC), three elected faculty representatives and one appointed faculty member, three members of the Board of Trustees, two students, two staff members, two alumni, and a community member. In a particularly important faculty retreat in March 2008, the faculty adopted a "One College" approach to Albion's future and to strategic planning initiatives. In essence, all constituents of the College community would be included in all elements of the strategic plan, all opinions would be valued, and the entire campus would work to implement the plan. A series of research teams were appointed, and their work was reported to the campus community in fall 2008. They continued to work throughout the 2008-2009 academic year. Membership on the research teams included faculty, staff, students, and, in some cases, members of the local community, trustees, and alumnae/i. The eleven research teams were the following: the Global Diversity Recruitment Team, the Global Diversity Research Team, the Center for Teaching and Learning Research Team, the Economic and Community Development Research Team, the Facilities Master Plan Steering Committee, the Faculty Salary and Compensation Research Team, the Wellness and Athletics Research Team, the Learning Commons Research Team, the Sustainability Research Team, the Curriculum Review, Innovation & Transformation Research Team, and the Fine and Performing Arts Research Team. Reports were submitted in the fall of 2008.(10)
Through strategic planning, the College also formalized its vision, which, coupled with the mission, gives direction to carry out the three pillars of the plan: a future-oriented perspective, multiple strategic partnerships, and the transformation of critical thought to action. While written in the present tense, the vision is aspirational, and assessment measures are being designed to measure how well the College is achieving its vision. The College's vision is the following:
Albion College is nationally recognized for its academic excellence in the liberal arts tradition, a learning-centered commitment, and a future-oriented perspective. The College is a leader in preparing students to anticipate, solve, and prevent problems in order to improve the human and global condition. The College immerses students in the creation and processing of knowledge, and graduates skilled architects of societal change, active citizens, and future leaders.
Albion College also reaffirmed core values and established others as part of the strategic planning process. These values lie at the heart of the College and inform strategic directions. They are the following, and in condensed form, are also found on the reverse of the mission cards (11):
VALUES: As a measure of Albion College's commitment to our students, our public, and the liberal arts tradition, the vision espouses deeply-embedded core values.
An intellectually challenging and diverse community of learners, teachers, scholars, and thinkers who share and promote a passion for learning and innovation in teaching and scholarship; Our passionate and loyal alums;Diversity as an expression and affirmation of the human condition and as a source of strength and celebration for all members of the community; Fairness, justice, ethical development, and personal responsibility; Small classes and personal attention in a residential undergraduate environment where the daily interaction of faculty, staff, and students fosters critical thinking, advances knowledge through collaborative scholarship, respects academic freedom, and inspires lifelong learning; Disciplinary and interdisciplinary study;Intellectual, personal, social, ethical, and spiritual development within our community and within a global context that prepares graduates for productive lives and careers; a breadth and depth of opportunities and experiences; and the drive to help each other make meaningful and educated contributions to a global society; Effective stewardship of all our resources – physical, intellectual, environmental, personnel, and financial; we strive to make decisions that are fiscally responsible; Opportunities for collegiality based on sincere, mutual interests that lead to rich friendships among faculty, staff, students, alums, and the greater Albion community.
As President Randall pointed out in her introduction to Albion 2015, the strategic plan is a "living, breathing plan that is both attentive and responsive to environmental changes." In that vein, she continued to move forward on its implementation in very concrete ways by establishing four implementation teams to provide reports in fall 2009. Those teams included the following: the Institute Implementation Team, the Career and Internship Center Implementation Team, the Alumni Engagement Implementation Team, and the Theme Team (Global Diversity, Sustainability, and Wellness). In a series of meetings with faculty and staff in August and September, 2009, the reports were aired and further direction was determined.
In March 2010, the Albion Advantage was announced, a pledge designed to tie together and reify many of these strategic planning threads for all students.(12) Throughout spring, the campus community continued to have periodic updates on strategic planning from the Director of Strategic Planning,(13) and the first thematic year was rolled out on Earth Day in April.(14) While the formal mission documents of the College do not explicitly state learning outcomes for students, mission statements of academic and support units of campus provide goals for student learning (See Criterion[IM2] ____). Likewise, plans for the thematic years and the Albion Advantage have learning outcomes and assessment measures imbedded in them. An example is the Sustainability Year plan.(15) Unfortunately as budget issues became more pronounced in spring 2010, some momentum on the implementation of the full strategic plan was lost, but the Strategic Planning Committee has been reconvened to re-energize the process.
1. Keith J. Fennimore, The Albion College Sesquicentennial History: 1835-1985 (Albion, MI: Albion College, 1985), p. 25.
2. Albion College, Liberal Arts at Work: Albion College's Vision for a Liberal Arts Education in the 21st Century, 1997.
3. See p. XXX in Chapter X[IM3]
4. Jennifer Cook and Anne McCauley, "Summer Research at Albion College: The Impact of the Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity," CUR Quarterly, vol. 23, no. 3 (March 2003): 121-125; Jennifer Cook and Wesley Dick, "A Window on America: Bringing Home Interdisciplinary Research," CUR Quarterly, vol. 26, no. 1 (September 2005): 16-21.
5. Minutes of the Board of Trustees, October 22, 2008.
6. Statement of Purpose of Albion College, 1995.
7. Albion 2015: Our Strategic Plan.
8. "Albion College Academic Catalog 2009-2010 - Albion College's Mission," n.d. http://www.albion.edu/academics/catalog/albion_mission.asp.
9. Albion College Mission Card.
10. Interim reports of the eleven Research Teams for Strategic Planning, fall 2008 are available electronically; print copies of the lengthier final reports are located in the campus Resource Room.
11. Reverse of Albion College Mission Card.
12. Albion Advantage flyer for prospective students.
13. Update from the Director of Strategic Planning to campus constituents, Spring 2010.
14. Sustainability Website: http://www.albion.edu/sustainability/.
15. "Plan for the Sustainability Year," April 30, 2010.