Chapter 6: SMSU as a Distinctive Organization
Missouri State University is distinctive in a number of verifiable ways. Even though it began as a normal school and evolved through a common sequence from teachers college, to state college, and then to state university, the unique character has been present throughout the institution’s 100-year history. During the past decade, this distinctiveness has taken form through the University’s statewide mission in public affairs. In his “State of the University” address in January, 2005, President Keiser noted, “The public affairs mission has been the central focus at SMS since it was adopted by the legislature and signed off by the governor as the University’s statewide mandate in 1995. It has been at the heart of two widely discussed and universally adopted long-range plans, 1995 and 2000, and has recently been reaffirmed by UPAC in Daring to Excel.” Indicating the intent of the University to carry this distinctive mission into the future, Keiser pointed out that, “The first line of the ad for a new president read, ‘The University seeks an exceptional leader committed to the fundamental principles of its public affairs mission.’”
Criteria and Core Components supported in this section include 1a, 1b, 1d, 1e.
President Keiser also acknowledged that the name change to Missouri State University would reflect the “distinctive contents” of the University, noting that “significant change has occurred in response to regional growth and demand since the mid-1990s, and . . . those distinctive developments require continued adjustments by all constituencies. . . . Those adjustments involve increased emphasis on the statewide mission in public affairs, on the metropolitan University System, on educational productivity and quality, and on a continuing University conversation resulting in explicit, regularly reviewed plans to excel in the challenging and competitive atmosphere of the 21st century.”
As stated in Keiser’s address, the University’s formal mission continues to exist as outlined in Countdown to the SMSU Centennial: A Long-Range Vision and Six-Year Plan (2000-2006). He reiterated this distinctive characteristic of the University: ‘The first words of our mission make it clear that “Southwest Missouri State University is a multi-campus metropolitan university system. . .’ That means its metropolitan region extends from Springfield, through Mountain Grove, to West Plains, and, to fulfill the System’s purpose of developing educated persons throughout life, it contains a non-duplicative set of educational enterprises from a unique K-12 lab school, Greenwood; to an open-admissions institution emphasizing associate degrees, West Plains; to a research campus stressing the business-agriculture focus of the region, Mountain Grove; to a baccalaureate through doctoral institution in the third-largest city of the fastest-growing region of Missouri, Springfield. There are no other Systems like that—there should be. Since the United States and the world are made up of metropolitan regions, understanding and emphasizing what it means to be a metropolitan university is essential to every department and unit in the SMS System in the 21st century. The SMS System’s metropolitan university identity is truly distinctive, and that distinction must be recognized, emphasized, and implemented.”
As evidenced in Keiser’s challenge in his 2005 address and in others over the years, the University and its system are committed, in all of its programs, both undergraduate and graduate, to the use of the most effective and regularly evaluated methods of discovering and imparting knowledge, and to the appropriate use of technology in support of these activities. Furthermore, the University understands that it has an obligation to draw from the insights generated in this quest for knowledge in order to provide service to the community that supports it.
This ongoing understanding of the University’s mission and its service to the public was made apparent by the newly-appointed President Michael T. Nietzel, first as a candidate for the position, and later in his first newsletter to the campus community. His five goals for the University, in order to serve the State of Missouri, are
Starting with these published statements of mission and purpose, this chapter documents that the University is a distinctive organization and fulfills the Criteria and Core Components related to this cross-cutting theme. While the second and third sections, “Appreciating Diversity” and “Being Accountable” present information only briefly mentioned elsewhere in this report, the other sections in this chapter repeat ideas discussed earlier. Thus, “Having an Unambiguous Mission,” “Being Self-Reflective,” and “Being Committed to Improvement” serve as summaries to the report.
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