Re-imagining Our Mission

Shared Jan. 21, 2019 in Notes from Netzer

The most important activity of my presidency up to this point has been my listening tour, which I began shortly after arriving here last July. It has been a great gift to spend time with and hear from literally hundreds of members of the campus and greater Oneonta communities. Thanks to all who shared their ideas, suggestions, and opinions, both positive and negative, about the college. This experience has been invaluable in informing how to approach the development of SUNY Oneonta’s next strategic plan.

Not surprisingly, over the course of dozens of meetings this past semester, a few areas of consensus emerged. One that stands out especially is what I am calling the strong ethic of care throughout SUNY Oneonta. Three points, which I heard in conversation after conversation, express the essence of this ethic.

First, our college is especially welcoming and ever-mindful of increasing inclusivity. Second, faculty, staff, and students, alike, are proud to serve others and deeply invested in the well-being of their communities. And third, there is a conspicuous institutional commitment to sustainability, not only environmental and financial, but a kind of spiritual sustainability, too — helping students find their unique, individual “true north,” that thing, whatever it happens to be, that feeds the soul.

Based on what I have heard “on tour,” these three values — inclusion, service and sustainability — are woven into the fabric of SUNY Oneonta, setting it apart from peer institutions. This idea led me to circle back to the college’s mission and question whether it truly reflects what we do. At the Administrative Forum in December, I asked if we ought to consider changing the mission. The answer from attendees that morning was a resounding, “Yes!”

This would be a serious move. I am sensitive to the fact that the college thoughtfully developed its mission in 2010 and completed two strategic plans under it. However, I also have learned that the college’s current mission isn’t its first. Longtime members of the campus community may recall a mission statement before that, dated 1998. It was a revised version of the mission statement adopted in 1990.

There seems to be a natural cadence to the mission’s evolution. After all, this is not the same institution it was 28 or even eight years ago. Given that the 2015 strategic plan has concluded, this moment seems right to consider our course once again. This semester, my listening tour will take a turn as we transition to planning, beginning with conversations — in the hackathon format — about our mission.

My office is organizing hackathons, which will begin later this month and continue through early April. A schedule is posted on the Office of the President website. I am excited for these and I look forward to building upon my listening tour to craft a new mission.

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