The MOOA’s First Assignment

Professor Benjamin Ginsberg’s plans for MOOA (Massive Open Online Administrations) are moving along. The MOOA will first tackle the issue of mission statements.

Surprisingly, many schools failed to develop mission statements until recently. For instance, the University of Rochester lacked a mission statement until 2009. Ginsberg said he was personally surprised that a school without a mission statement had even been able to develop a curriculum, to say nothing of a strategic plan.  

Older mission statements, according to Ginsberg, outlined complex educational philosophies and ran hundreds of words in length. In contrast, today’s mission statements boldly affirm the school’s core bromides in a punchy form suitable for text messages, t-shirts, and press releases. Rochester has led the way in adopting “Learn, Discover, Heal, Create–and Make the World Ever Better.”

“Surprisingly,” said Ginsberg, “Mission statements vary from school to school.” Ginsberg compared Rochester’s mission statement with Emory’s, which is “Create, preserve, teach and apply knowledge in the service of humanity.” He pointed out that although the two statements overlap somewhat, they use many different words whose precise arrangement did not appear to reflect any clear principle. Moreover, while Rochester had boiled its mission down to a puissant ten words, Emory seemed unable to improve upon its somewhat bulkier eleven-word mission which, Ginsberg noted, might confuse the school’s trustees.

“This,” said Ginsberg, “is where the MOOA concept can make a major contribution.”  He declared that MOOA could develop a ten-word mission statement that would serve all colleges and universities equally well.

Once every school accepts the idea of the universal mission statement, Ginsberg suggests that the next step in improving educational quality in America might be some resolution of the ongoing problem of school mottos. Ginsberg noted that each school currently has its own motto. Some older schools, he pointed out, even used Latin. “Whenever I try to text veritas, my iPhone changes it to ‘veritable,'” he complained. Ginsberg believes that MOOA will be able to develop a single motto, in a simple English word or words, that will apply equally well to every college. 

For an extended version of this piece, see here


  • Benjamin Ginsberg

    Benjamin Ginsberg is the David Bernstein Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Hopkins Center for Advanced Governmental Studies in Washington, DC.

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