The NCA's criteria for reaccreditation need to be flexible enough to apply to all the institutions of higher learning the NCA accredits, from the University of Chicago to DeVry; from the Mount Vernon Nazarene University to The Ohio State University and everything imaginable in between. As a result the criteria can be difficult to understand (one person told me they found them incomprehensible). It can especially be hard to imagine how they fit into what we do as a college. In a sense that is the task of reaccreditation—to figure out what the criteria mean for Kenyon College. Our answer will not necessarily be the same as that of the institution down the road. In the next few blogs I will try to explain a bit more what the criteria mean and how we might go about interpreting them for our own institution.
I'd like to begin with the Mission Statement. A mission statement is nothing more than a statement that communicate briefly to the public and to those within the institution (the stakeholders)what the organization is about. To evaluate an institution, we first need to know what it is the institution is trying to accomplish. Then we can ask how well it is accomplishing that mission. The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association wants the self-study to emerge from and speak to the institution's mission statement. What is the college's vision of itself? All other questions flow from this question: are we making decisions but financial and academic based on our mission? Are we accomplishing that mission? What could we do to improve our ability to deliver on the mission we have defined. Kenyon does have a mission statement. Read it; It's OK, I'll wait until you finish.
All done? Moving along. The Kenyon statement is somewhat long (compare, for instance, to Grinnell's mission statement or The University of Dayton's, which are much shorter). The reaccreditation team that visited Kenyon in 2000, however, did an elegant job of isolating and summarizing the basic features of this mission and the main points of their summary may help us get some purchase on what it all means, on what is distinctive about Kenyon. They found in Kenyon's mission statement
1. A historic commitment to ancient liberal arts
2. A commitment to intellectual and moral development
3. A commitment to a residential setting
4. A commitment to fostering special relationships among students and faculty
5. A stubborn independence from negative outside forces. (2000 HLC/NCA Reaccreditation Report)
Notice that in addition to the mission statement, the document contains a list of goals , including a separate set of goals for general education, the major, community, participation and satisfaction. These goals make more specific the various points of the mission statement; they flesh it out. This mission and the set of goals that it has generated will figure prominently in the process of self-study over the next two years. The question we need constantly to be asking of ourselves is how well do we accomplish these goals? In later posts, I will be connecting this mission statement to the various NCA criteria.