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 Developing a Mission Statement for the Academic Advising Program

Authored By: Wes Habley

 

In the opening paragraph, the CAS Standards and Guidelines for Academic Advising state that the "academic advising program must develop, record, disseminate, implement, and regularly review its mission and goals." In spite of this clear assertion however, confusion and frustration abound on many campuses as they wrestle with the concept of developing a mission for the academic advising program. Much of this confusion stems from a lack of clarity in the definitions of terms associated with this process. The lack of clarity is evident to the point that the definitions of strategic planning, vision, mission, goals, and objectives (as well as several other terms) are commingled in the literature to the point that it is nearly impossible to ferret out the essentials. This article is intended to simplify the development of and advising mission statement by providing advice a series of process and content considerations.

PROCESS CONSIDERATIONS

The mission statement must be consistent with the mission of the institution. This consideration is often overlooked. Yet, if the advising program is not connected to the institution's mission (or strategic plan or vision) then, the program becomes peripheral and perfunctory. An excellent approach to integrating the institutional and advising mission statements is simply to extract those statements in the institutional mission that focus on students. Then ask the question "How can our advising program contribute to the realization of this mission?"

The development of the mission statement must include a wide variety of constituencies. While it would be very easy for a few like-minded individuals to agree on a mission statement for the advising program, advising functions is an open system. Individuals who deliver advising, individuals who receive advising, and individuals who support the delivery of advising must be engaged in the process of developing a mission statement. While it is neither practical nor wise to have all individuals involved in the early stages in the development of the mission statement, it is important that all constituencies be represented in these early discussions. And, it is equally important that the work of this team be shared campus-wide, in an iterative process requiring several draft versions. Because advising engages so many faculty and staff, the iterative process may be time consuming and fraught with political mine fields. Yet, broad involvement is the only way to ensure constituent ownership of the mission statement.

The mission statement should serve as a guide to the decisions we make about what we 'guide.' The flow char below depicts the mission statement as the driver of goals and objectives for advising which in turn anchor program strategies and delivery.


 MISSION STATEMENT FLOW MODEL

 

One of the major and observable flaws in many advising mission statements is that they focus on the what and the how of advising. This flow model suggests that although detailing the what and the how are critical elements in the delivery of advising, they should be guided by rather than included in the mission statement.

Assessment is critical to the achievement of the mission statement.The Mission Statement Flow Model depicts a feedback loop from program and advisor assessment to the mission statement, the goals and objectives, and advising program strategies and criteria. Without on-going assessment it is not possible to determine with any certainty that the advising program is accomplishing its stated mission.

The mission statement must be prominently displayed and promoted.Many campuses do an excellent job of developing a mission statement. Yet, for some reason it is common for the mission statement to languish in obscurity once it has been affirmed, viewed as an intellectual exercise: a necessary, but unhelpful document. Because the mission statement is the focal point of advising, it must be visible in publications, presentations, and representations. The mission will not be realized unless it is prominently displayed as a constant affirmation to all constituencies that deliver, receive, or support advising.

The mission statement must be regularly reviewed and, if necessary, revised.Students change, programs change, advisors change, institutions change (albeit slowly). It is folly to assume that the mission of advising might not change. With this in mind, the mission statement must be reviewed periodically for either reaffirmation or revision. Just as in the initial development of the mission statement, those reviewing the statement should include individuals who deliver advising, individuals who receive advising, and individuals who support advising.

CONTENT CONSIDERATIONS

The advising mission statement must be visionary.It is interesting to note that several definitions of the word vision share the synonyms of illusory, unreal, dreamy, and utopian. Yet, one definition of visionary is ".marked by foresight and imagination." Applied to the advising mission statement, foresight and imagination suggests that we must imagine what would define us if we were '.being all that we could be.' We must focus on the answers to the questions: How do we want to be remembered? What is the ultimate compliment that could be paid to us? What do we aspire to deliver? What contributions do we want to make to the lives of our students? To the success of our institution? Developing a mission statement gives the advising community a rare and exhilarating opportunity to imagine, to create, and to visualize.

The advising mission statement must be broad.The mission statement serves as the umbrella for the delivery of services. Yet, it is important to recognize that the advising program cannot be all things to all people at all times in and in all situations. A mission statement that is too broad will not provide the direction necessary as goals and objectives are developed and program strategies determined. On the other hand many advising mission statements are far too narrow in their conceptualization, focusing on thewhat and thehow of the advising program. If one were to spend time reviewing advising mission statements from many campuses, it would soon be obvious that most err on the side of narrowly defining the advising program.

The advising mission statement must be realistic.This consideration brings focus to the vision and breadth of the mission statement. Just as it is not possible for advising to be all things to all people, it is equally unlikely that there will be unlimited human and fiscal resources to support the advising program. Thus, the vision must be tempered by realism. The mission statement must be practical (useful) and workable (feasible). But above all, it must be achievable. A mission statement that is not realistic is nothing more than a platitude. It serves as a point of frustration rather than a stimulus to those who deliver advising.

The advising mission statement must be motivational.It must provide a compelling reason to engage in advising and inspire commitment among those who deliver advising. It establishes an ideal to which advisors can aspire.

The advising mission statement must be short and concise.There are many opinions on what it means to have a mission statement that is short and concise. Some individuals suggest that a mission statement should be able to fit (and be readable) on a tee shirt. Others suggest that a mission statement be no longer that three sentences or twenty-five words. The mission statement as 'elevator pitch' has several proponents. As a brief description of the 'elevator pitch', imagine that you are getting on an elevator and someone asks you to state the mission of your advising program. You have from the time the door closes on the first floor until it opens on the sixth floor to state your mission. If you arrive at the sixth floor and are only half way through your mission statement and you continue talking as you get off and hold the doors open to finish talking, your mission statement is too long. A review of advising mission statements from a variety of campuses reveals that most of those statements appear to have been developed with a 'more is better' 'cover all bases' approach. Verbosity and detail prevail over clarity and brevity.
  • The advising mission statement must be easily understood. The best mission statement in the world has no utility if people do not understand it. the mission statement must be written:
    • in plain language
    • without jargon
    • without 'buzz words'
    • without ambiguous terms
    • in simple sentences
  • The mission statement must be memorableThe mission statement for Walt Disney is "To make people happy." While a mission statement for advising is unlikely to be captured in four words, the entire process of developing a mission statement will be for naught if when asked to state the mission of the advising program, advisors must refer to the catalog, the advising handbook, or other publications. If advisors cannot articulate the mission statement, it far less likely that they will be able to live it and act in accordance with it. It is important to note that if each of the previous content considerations is incorporated into the mission statement, it will most likely be memorable.

What's next?

This article may have provided enough information to understand the process and content considerations for developing an advising mission state on your campus. If however, you would like to 'practice wordsmithing' on someone else's mission statement, a simple mission statement rating form and discussion guide appear below.

Examples of advising mission statements appear on NACADA's web site at the following address:http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/tabid/3318/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/253/article.aspx.Additional examples may be viewed by doing a google search with the words: mission statements advising.

Mission Statement Rating Form

 

Put a check mark in the appropriate box

Characteristic
Very Good
Good
Neutral
Weak
Poor
Visionary
         
Broad          
Realistic          
Motivational          
Short/concise          
Understandable          
Memorable          

 

Discussion Questions

 

What did you like best about this mission statement?__________________________________

What did you like least about this mission statement?_________________________________

  

Rewrite this mission statement:       ________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________

Wes Habley

Principal Associate

Educational Services

ACT, Inc.



Read More About It!Resources for further study.

  • CAS Standards and Guidelines for Academic Advising http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Research/Standards.htm
  • Habley, W.R. "Developing aMissionStatement for Academic Advising." Summer Institute Session Guide (2005)
  • Miller, T.K. (ed.). The Book of Professional Standards for Higher Education. Washington,D.C.: Council for the Advancement of Standards, 1997.
  • National Academic Advising Association. "NACADA of Core Values for Advising

   http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/advisingissues/core-values.htm

Overview of the issues surrounding the creation of an advising mission statement
Read More About It! Resources for further study.


Cite this resource using APA style as:

Habley, W.R. (2005).Developing a mission statement for the academic advising program. Retrieved 9/10/2013 from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site:
http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Academic-advising-mission-statements.aspx

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