Board of Trustees greenlights new, shorter mission statement

Media Credit: Donna Armstrong | Contributing Photo Editor

Chairman Nelson Carbonell speaks at a Board of Trustees meeting Friday morning where members voted to adopt a new mission statement.

The Board of Trustees voted Friday to adopt a shorter University mission statement.

The new 37-word mission statement stems from recommendations the University received last year as it went through a reaccreditation process ensuring that GW meets national higher education standards, Board Chairman Nelson Carbonell said.

The statement now reads: “The mission of The George Washington University is to educate individuals in liberal arts, languages, sciences, learned professions and other courses and subjects of study, and to conduct scholarly research and publish the findings of such research.”

Carbonell said the trustees planned to amend the statement last fall after the Middle States Commission of Higher Education, a regional association of colleges, reaccredited the University over the summer and suggested an update.

He said the new statement was crafted with input from administrators and members of the Faculty Senate and the Student Association.

The old statement clocked in at 238 words and touched on “furthering human well-being,” promoting diversity and improving the nation’s capital.

Carbonell said the old mission statement, which “hadn’t been reviewed for 20 years,” was overly “broad and expansive.” He added that a mission statement should enumerate the goals the University must meet rather than those GW would like to meet.

He said that while the University still has a commitment to the D.C. community, GW alone is unable to broadly improve the quality of life in the District, so that objective should not be included in the statement.

“We can’t have a mission that says our job is to make the D.C. community a better place to live or something like that because, one, we’re really not in control of that, and two, that can get pretty broad pretty quickly,” he said.

He said the Board examined peer institutions and found that many schools have adopted shorter, more concise mission statements in recent years.

Carbonell added that the Board derived the new, shorter mission word-for-word from the University’s charter, as updated by the U.S. Congress in 1977. The charter also lists the operation of a hospital and medical facilities as one of the University’s purposes, though that is not included in either the old or new mission statement.

“The charter articulates a purpose and says that the Board of Trustees needs to, in effect, govern the institution according to these purposes, and that charter’s pretty good,” he said. “We thought the best thing to do was to align the charter and the mission.”

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