Are Colleges and Universities Losing Their Way and Seemingly Becoming Merely Sources of Employment for Unemployed Administrators? An Exploration into Mission Officers, including a Chief Mission Officer, as a Source of Focus for Colleges and Universities

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Conference Track

Panels and Special Sessions

Publication Date



A University's mission defines what a university stands for and its uniqueness in the market. As they are experiencing increasing pressures (e.g., growing competition, decreasing funding, greater demands for accountability, consumer mentality in students) colleges and universities are facing intensifying demands to respond in ways which may not be consistent with their missions. The multiplicity of activities and functions undertaken by many colleges and universities today makes it increasingly difficult for their leaders to determine the activities which are truly important to the long-term health of their institutions. Although the function of a college’s or university’s mission is to establish a sense of purpose and provide guidance in all areas, truly integrating an institution’s mission into its decision making is often easier said than done. Even colleges and universities which possess a clear and distinct mission often have a difficult time in truly adhering to it in today’s challenge-filled environment. Without a clear focus on mission, decisions become ad-hoc. A model to increase the increase the attention and focus placed on one’s mission is that which is utilized by several institutions of higher learning – a Chief Mission Officer (CMO). A CMO is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that mission is integrated in a clear and effective way into the functioning of an organization. This session will explore the role of a Chief Mission Officer in bringing a university's mission alive to its internal and external stakeholders, particularly students. Issues to be Addressed in the Session: The session will focus on how a chief mission officer and other leaders can aid colleges and universities in fulfilling their mission. 1) The importance of the mission will be briefly addressed. Does mission really matter? Why should colleges and universities focus time and effort on implementing their mission? 2) The difficulties faced by colleges and universities in implementing and integrating mission into both strategic and day-to-day decision-making will be briefly explored. 3) Chief Mission Officers will be presented as a possible solution to the problems which may be encountered when attempting to implement the mission in a consistent fashion. a. The historical basis of CMOs in colleges and universities will be reported to provide a context. b. The role played by CMOs in today will be recounted. 4) The future of CMOs in higher education will be explored. 5) The role of other novel administrative roles in supporting mission effectiveness. 6) As a joint activity between participants and presenters, CMOs will be explored as a possible solution to implement and integrate mission in participant’s institutions. (See questions in “Plans for Engaging Participants in Active Learning” section). As a consequence of participating in this session, participants will: 1) Further understand the importance of mission to institutions of higher education. 2) Understand the role that can be played by CMOs in the implementation of mission. 3) Understand the role that can be played by other leaders, including faculty leaders, in the implementation of mission. 4) Have begun to reflect on the advantages of CMO in their home institutions. 5) Have begun to reflect in the issues which may be involved in adopting a CMO in their home institutions. After providing a basis of understanding, time will be provided for participants to begin to explore the reality of a CMO at their home institutions. Questions to be explored include: 1) What background should a CMO possess? 2) Where in the organizational chart should the CMO be positioned? 3) What kinds of activities should a CMO be responsible for? 4) Do you see any problems/hurdles implementing a CMO at your institution? 5) How should the CMO relate to the academic side of the university?

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