An institution formed around a driving mission
One of the most important factors in whether or not change will work in higher education is whether that change has been incorporated into the mission statement of the institution, and whether that mission is understood by faculty, staff, and students. Many colleges and universities were founded with a mission of serving and bettering their community. Yet most institutions have been around too long for their constituents to recall the circumstances of their founding. Monterey Bay, California, gives us a glimpse of how vividly mission can resonate in an institution that does know its roots.
California State University, Monterey Bay was founded in 1995 to address two complementary sets of needs. The California School System, anticipating an influx of new students in the coming decades, needed a new university to educate them. The Monterey Bay community needed a new support system for the community, which was facing the massive loss of jobs after the closing of a nearby military base. The new university, founded on the old site of the military base, seeks to simultaneously meet the educational and community needs of Monterey Bay.
As expressed in its founding vision statement, the university is framed by substantive commitment to a multilingual, multicultural, intellectual community distinguished by partnerships with existing institutions, both public and private, and by cooperative agreements which enable students, faculty, and staff to cross institutional boundaries for innovative instruction, broadly defined scholarly creative activity, and coordinated community service.
The structure and format of the university flow from this mission. The curriculum focuses heavily on multilingual, multicultural education and technological instruction for both undergraduates and professionals. Service-learning and community engagement are thoroughly incorporated into study. Every service-learning course is developed with input from community members and team-taught by interdisciplinary groups of faculty members and representatives of community organizations.
All students are required to take a course on community participation, the stated purpose of which is to generate enthusiasm for service and prepare students for a lifetime of community participation. All students also take at least one service-learning course specific to their major.
Majors, too, are structured around the unique vision of the university. Traditional departments are replaced with interdisciplinary, theme-based specialty clusters that are formed around community issues rather than academic concepts. Thus, a student might major in Learning Systems or Earth Systems, Science, and Policy. Students complete their study by demonstrating their ability to participate in diverse communities, a demonstration that includes producing a description detailing the assets and needs of a local neighborhood. On an inter-institutional level, cooperative agreements enable students and faculty to work closely with other local institutions and community organizations, both public and private.
From its structure to its curriculum to its community collaborations, CSU, Monterey Bay is an institution formed around a driving mission. Taken together, this set of values provides a vision of higher education defined by community engagement.
From Service Matters 1998: Engaging Higher Education In the Renewal of America s Communities and American Democracy
President: Peter Smith
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