By David Struett
Harold Washington College has invested a lot of time into fine-tuning its new mission statement to make sure it reflects the outlook of students and faculty.
The mission statement is a major part of the accreditation process, which is nearing completion in October 2018, and is the first of five “criterion” used by the accreditor to access the school.
“I think accreditation [the Higher Learning Commission] is interested in seeing that colleges are mission driven,” said Jennifer G. Asimow, the HWC faculty member in charge of finalizing the new mission statement.
“And by that, it means there’s something that is bigger than the institution that everyone buys into, in that decisions, both academic and fiduciary, are made based on mission and not based on personal interests or finances,” she said.
The new mission statement is still in the process of being codified, according to HWC president Margie Martyn.
Few people disagreed with the new mission statement, according to Asimow, who surveyed over 200 students and faculty. Of all respondents, 86 percent said they supported the revised mission, according to numbers Asimow presented at the State of the College address.
“The data that came out of there created the hierarchy for our values for our core values,” said Asimow. “So we didn’t just make these things up. These were based on things the college community said they valued.”
The new mission statement reflects the language we use today, said Asimow.
“So what we tried to do is create things that were more concise and broad,” she said.
In 2011, the City Colleges of Chicago's district office created their own mission statement in the district course catalog. The act was confusing for the seven city colleges because each college already had their own mission statements at the time.
The new mission statement will be vetted by staff and faculty, unlike the district-issued one.
District making its own mission statement in 2011 was fine, according to Martyn, but she said that the district’s mission should align with HWC’s mission, too. Each city college is different and its mission statement should reflect those differences, said Martyn.
“I think that each school has its own nuances. For instance, diversity here is a huge thing. We’re very diverse. Not every City Colleges is. Some of them are very neighborhood based. This is not the case here at this school. You’ll see everyone from every corner of the city,” said Martyn.
These unique qualities are reflected in the “core values” of the mission statement. Martyn listed a few.
“Diversity, social activism,... making sure students are aware of society, global citizens,” she said.
The tentative mission statement was presented at the State of the College address: “Harold Washington College is a student-centered institution that empowers all members of its community through accessible and affordable academic advancement, career development and personal enrichment.”
Asimow began working on the new mission statement in Oct. 2016.
The last time HWC underwent the re-accreditation process, the head of the self-study report, professor John Hader, used the mission statement of 2008 as a starting point to examine what HWC students and staff knew about their own institution.
“It was a dynamic process where we saw it as an institutional self-reflection,” said Hader.
In preparing the self-study, Hader said that HWC issued a survey based on every line of the school’s mission statement.
“We had students, faculty, staff, do the survey. And in the survey we found out that most people didn’t know who Harold Washington was, oddly enough,” said Hader.
“So rather than wait for [the accreditors]… we got pictures by the escalator. It was a dynamic process. It wasn’t a static report. So look down at the library, those glass cases loaded with artifacts of Washington’s career. That came in the midst of last self-study,” he said.