Develop an Iterative, Ongoing Process

Vision and mission statements should not be static, "dead" documents. Creating and maintaining these statements of purpose and action should be a dynamic process with multiple points for taking in feedback and making necessary course corrections based on that feedback from the local context.

"What does 'vision' and 'mission' look like for us?"

One great starting point for developing vision and mission statements is reviewing the statements of other centers or offices that fill similar roles at their institutions. The guiding documents of other programs and departments at your own institution (including the strategic vision of the university as a whole) can also be a source of inspiration. Understanding their role(s) on campus can also help to reduce duplication of effort, clarify the scope of your center, and avoid "mission creep."

The NSEC collection of STEM Center Profiles is a rich source of information about what STEM Centers do. Explore common themes across a diversity of target audiences and center types.

STEM Education Centers provide many different services to their institutions and therefore vision and mission statements will vary. Some sample themes that might be part of a visioning process include:

  • Work with institutions to contextualize undergraduate STEM education through the lens of the needs of our nation from K-12 education into higher education and then into the workforce.
  • Facilitate innovation through research activities to identify evidence-based best practices for teaching and learning, often in collaboration with other research institutes. Common research foci include strengthening gateway courses, increasing student persistence, and inclusive teaching pedagogy.
  • Disseminate knowledge and support the application and implementation of new knowledge and practices for individuals, into classrooms, and across programs by providing training, consultation, and professional development services.
  • Advocate for change in policy at the institutional, state, and national level that will lead to improved outcomes for STEM education.
Participants in the 2015 Workshop on Engaging Faculty submitted information about practices that are working well on their campuses in terms of engaging faculty and transforming upper division courses. Check out the full set of promising practices they contributed.

Make Use of an External Perspective

To facilitate the process of developing a vision and mission, it may be useful to utilize an outside representative (possibly an individual from Human Resources who knows the University well or, if such a person is not available, a paid person from outside the University), who can facilitate a retreat to work them out together with key stakeholders.

Developing a Shared Vision- Gwen Shusterman, Portland State University
PSU's STEM Institute met with an external facilitator during a day long retreat, revisited their goals and vision, and developed a new mission.

Include Opportunities for Feedback

Centers report that the process of developing the vision and mission statements requires the integration of feedback from many stakeholders and revision in phases across multiple meetings. Additionally, once the vision and mission are defined, these statements will need to be revisited over time as a center grows or changes organizational structure, changes focus, develops additional partnerships, or experiences changes in key personnel. Plan for opportunities to receive feedback on the mission and vision statements at multiple stages of the center's development. Focus groups, meetings with individuals, online comment boards, and many other potential ways of gathering feedback can be used at various stages of development or revision to help strengthen a center's purpose and action plan.