CENTRAL CONNECTICUT STATE UNIVERSITY

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Standard 1: Mission & Purposes  


Description

The Mission Statement (see Catalogs: Exhibit 1.1) for Central Connecticut State University identifies its distinctive commitment to teaching and scholarship; to the development and application of knowledge through research and outreach; and to preparing students to be thoughtful, responsible, and successful citizens.

 CCSU’s Mission Statement describes a mutually reinforcing relationship among teaching and learning, scholarship and research, and public service.  With teaching as its highest priority, CCSU sees scholarship and research as informing our teaching with the ultimate goal of creating a community of learners. 

 An important element of education at CCSU is “the personal and social growth of our students.”  Beyond providing high quality undergraduate and graduate programs, CCSU seeks to “foster a welcoming environment in which all members of our diverse community receive encouragement, feel safe, and acquire self-confidence.”

 Official, public pronouncements affirm CCSU’s primary mission to educate students.  CCSU’s Mission Statement has been formally adopted by the CSUS Board of Trustees. Moreover, the CSUS’s governing Mission Statement focuses entirely on the role of the University to provide “affordable and high-quality, active-learning opportunities” to “students of all ages, backgrounds, races and ethnicities.”  At the campus level, all CCSU official web and print publications express the University’s primary goal:  “to improve the educational experience of our students.” Similarly, the union contracts (Exhibit 1.2) of the teaching and administrative faculty emphasize the primacy and advancement of teaching. The Faculty Senate, a governing body representing faculty and administration, approved the current Mission Statement. Moreover, all materials formally introducing students to the mission emphasize that CCSU is an institution for learning and for self-growth.

 In the “Fulfilling the Mission” statement, CCSU affirms its commitment to provide “access” to quality higher education. By emphasizing access, the University indicates that its students will include those whose finances might preclude their attending college, or whose academic preparation might require additional support for success. (Extensive information about programs and initiatives to support CCSU’s mission to provide accessible higher education is provided in the chapter on Standard Six.)

 

The Mission Statement clearly addresses the needs of society by emphasizing outreach, students’ civic education, and the commitment to community engagement and to workforce and economic development.  The University aspires to be respected for its contributions to the State’s cultural and economic development; for providing innovative, learner-centered education; and for its global perspective and outreach.

 

At the request of the Board of Trustees, CCSU has engaged over the past year in “a process that results in a distinctive mission for the University.” Under the direction of the University Planning and Budget Committee (UPBC), all campus constituencies were invited to provide input on establishing a distinctive identity for CCSU, separate from the other three Universities within the system.  UPBC brought their recommendations to the Faculty Senate on April 14, 2008, which formally endorsed the following four areas of CCSU’s distinctive identity: (1) international education, (2) workforce and State economic development, (3) community engagement, and (4) interdisciplinary studies and cross-curricular initiatives.

The mission statements and strategic plans of CCSU’s five schools reflect the University’s commitment to serve the workforce needs of Connecticut. All five offer undergraduate and graduate programs that respond to Connecticut’s workforce needs. Notably, CCSU is one of only two public universities in Connecticut to offer degrees in engineering. CCSU has also received approval to offer a new four-year B.S. degree in Nursing. Reflecting its origins as a normal school, CCSU prepares more Connecticut teachers than any other University in the State. Many of CCSU’s academic programs also integrate experiential learning experiences, internships, and cooperative education.

CCSU also serves the community through its Institute of Technology and Business Development, Center for Public Policy & Social Research, Institute for the Study of Crime & Justice, and Institute for Municipal & Regional Policy (Exhibit 1.3), as well as through its sponsorship of the State’s Small Business Development Center. CCSU has reorganized its Office of Continuing Education as the Office of Continuing Education and Community Engagement to facilitate increased community involvement by faculty and students.

The University has made a significant effort in the past year to further its commitment to community engagement, including the CCSU Provost’s participation in the national Engagement Academy for University Administrators, the commitment to participate in the Greater Hartford Service Learning Initiative, and the University’s selection to participate in the American Association of State Colleges and University’s (AASCU) national “Civic Agency Initiative.”

 

The University fulfills its mission to build strong relationships with the surrounding community through publications such as the Central Courier and the weekly “Scene @ CCSU” column in the New Britain Herald, as well as through broadcasts via local-access cable channels.  Members of the campus community and local residents have frequent opportunities to attend a wide array of performances, exhibits, lectures, guest speakers, and sporting events.  In 2007, President Jack Miller established a Town & Gown Committee to improve communication and relations between the University and homeowners in the surrounding neighborhood. The University is also placing greater emphasis on inviting alumni to meet with students, speak to classes, and attend university events. 

The University’s distinctive commitment to international education is administered by the George Muirhead Center for International Education, one of the State’s designated Centers for Excellence. CCSU’s distinctive commitment to interdisciplinary and cross-curricular initiatives is reflected in an array of interdisciplinary degree programs (e.g., M.S. in Computer Information Technology, B.A. and M.S. in International Studies), undergraduate minors (e.g., Entrepreneurship, Gerontology), and cross-curricular initiatives in community engagement, diversity, international education, and writing.

The mission and purposes of the University guide curriculum development for undergraduate General Education, undergraduate majors and minors, and graduate study.  The University Curriculum Committee, the Faculty Senate, and deans of the five schools shepherd curricular decisions that seek to ensure a quality educational experience. In addition to activities overseen by the division of Academic Affairs, many activities sponsored by the division of Student Affairs look to encourage student learning. A large majority of the University’s individual units—divisions, schools, departments, centers, units—have developed mission statements aligned with CCSU’s mission.
 

Appraisal

In many ways, the Mission Statement accurately defines CCSU’s distinctive character.  The University provides an accessible, quality education. Many of our programs are accredited by national organizations. Many of our classes focus on student-centered learning, and we provide a wide variety of services to support students and to promote their success. A majority of our students express satisfaction with their learning experience. Most of our faculty conduct research, scholarship, and creative activity that inform their teaching. Many of our faculty, staff, and students are actively engaged in service to the community. We strive to provide a welcoming environment for a diverse community of learners.

There are some ways in which CCSU falls short of these ideals. Whereas the Mission Statement envisions a mutually reinforcing relationship among education, scholarship and research, and public service, the demands of scholarly and civic engagement on faculty carrying heavy teaching loads and dealing with many under-prepared students, often creates strains that many faculty find unreasonable. Although teaching is a priority at CCSU, there have only recently been attempts at systematic and sustained efforts to measure the effectiveness of student learning in all departments and at all levels, whether General Education or majors courses. Although there is certainly evidence that many of CCSU’s faculty are dedicated to innovative, activity-based, life-long, and learner-centered higher education, little evidence has been collected to substantiate a systematic commitment to these values and to document their impact. Many students have trouble navigating the maze of offices for admissions, financial aid, registration, and advising. Despite the Mission Statement’s ideal of a fully integrated learning experience for students, the Academic Affairs and Student Affairs divisions have often worked in isolation.  Recently, two highly publicized incidents involving racist and sexist content in our student newspaper have sparked concerns about the diversity climate at CCSU. The State’s contribution to our funding has steadily decreased to the point where it no longer covers half of the cost of educating each student.  Moreover, the State’s funding formula does not reflect the additional costs required to support students who come to CCSU under-prepared.

The university community is aware of many of these shortcomings and works aggressively to address them. In an effort to understand the campus climate, the UPBC conducted a Noel-Levitz survey during the fall 2007 term.  From it we learned that a preponderance of respondents was dissatisfied about the quality of communication among the University’s various constituencies.  In response, Web-based vehicles for campus-wide communication were instituted, including CCSU Now, a description of institutional initiatives and programs that is continually updated, and 360 Degree Communication, which highlights selected accomplishments of faculty and staff. President Miller also conducted a survey to establish strategic priorities. We have established an Assessment Committee to help institutionalize and improve our assessment of student learning. CCSU has made a commitment to participate in the Voluntary System of Accountability and administered the Collegiate Learning Assessment to a sample of freshmen and seniors in 2007-08. A new budgeting process has enabled deans to increase the level of support for faculty research and travel. The recently created Retention and Graduation Council is working toward streamlining procedures to reduce hurdles faced by students. Efforts are now being made to overcome institutional barriers to collaboration.  One objective in the University’s Strategic Plan specifically calls for increasing collaboration between the Academic Affairs and Student Affairs units to define co-curricular learning outcomes. Many initiatives are being undertaken to improve the campus climate for diversity, including appointing a Blue Ribbon Commission on Diversity and filling a newly upgraded position of Chief Diversity Officer.

Many efforts are underway to better fulfill the University’s mission with regard to students, including efforts to improve advising, to consolidate academic support services, and to upgrade athletic and fitness facilities.  There are also new efforts from the Provost’s office to promote community engagement, and the Curriculum Committee’s General Education Subcommittee seeks to expand CCSU’s commitment to Writing across the Curriculum, although to date, there have been few concrete results.

CCSU’s Vision Statement remains appropriate for the institution. As an academic leader in engineering, technology, education, and business, CCSU has a legitimate claim to preeminence within the State. Owing to efforts of the Development Office and Alumni Association, the institution is well regarded by alumni and the community. Because most of our students pursue careers in Connecticut, CCSU makes a significant contribution to the economic development of the State. On-campus programs and institutes, an international component to the General Education requirement, and a dynamic Center of International Education, ensure that CCSU will continue to be global in its perspective and outreach.

Though few at CCSU could recite the Mission Statement, most administrators, faculty, staff, and students would agree that the University endeavors to be a “community of learners dedicated to teaching and to scholarship.”  That is, CCSU’s primary goal is to provide a very good educational experience for our students, and thus teaching and learning should take precedence over all other concerns. 
 

Projection
 

Following approval by the Faculty Senate of the four elements of CCSU’s distinctive identity, the UPBC plans to incorporate these elements in a revised Mission Statement that will be submitted to the Senate in fall 2008. The four distinctive elements of the University’s identity and the revised Mission Statement anticipated for adoption will be submitted to the CSU Board of Trustees for formal approval. Discussion of the distinct role CCSU plays within the Connecticut State University System will raise awareness of the mission among all constituencies. Specific objectives for each unit will be revised to reflect the new Mission Statement and the four elements of distinctive identity. The NEASC self study, coinciding with the mandate from the Trustees to specify a distinctive identity, has led to the current ongoing reevaluation of the mission by the university community.  Each administrative unit will re-assess its strategic plan and its effectiveness in meeting the University’s mission.  

Institutional Effectiveness

CCSU periodically reevaluates the content and pertinence of its mission and purposes in light of changing circumstances, such as shifting priorities within the State or demographic changes. In 2003, a University Taskforce developed a revised Strategic Plan, which was approved by the Faculty Senate in 2004.  Over the past three years, President Miller has actively involved the university community in a strategic planning process to review and update goals and objectives for CCSU. An integral phase of this activity has been to demonstrate that all goals are derived from the Mission Statement and to document the continuity between the new plan and previous plans. Most units have strategic plans that are well aligned with the mission (exhibit for different units’ strategic plans). The recent process of identifying areas of distinctiveness for CCSU is expected to result in modifications to the Mission Statement in the coming year.
 

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