I work at DePaul University, a large private Catholic institution in Chicago. It is often referred to as a mission-driven institution rather than religiously-affiliated due to the wide range of students that we serve. While we are the largest Catholic university in the United States, we also have a large population of Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Protestant, Agnostic, and Atheist students which weaves a rich history of religious diversity and interfaith opportunities for students, faculty, and staff.
We talk about the mission a lot at DePaul, due mostly to our distinct Vincentian roots. The mission of St. Vincent de Paul (1581-1660) surrounds ennobling the God-given dignity of each person. This religious personalism is manifested by the members of the DePaul community in a sensitivity to and care for the needs of each other and of those served, with a special concern for the deprived members of society. By making a commitment to serving those on the margins, we as members of the DePaul community are able to live out the Vincentian question: What must be done?
But you likely do not work at DePaul. So what does this mean for your institution and its mission?
1. Take time to read your university, divisional, and departmental mission statements. Find the threads that tie these three together. When applicable, incorporate the mission statement of the student organization(s) assisting with the event you are hoping to plan. If the event does not tie into the organization, department, division, or university mission, don’t hold the event. It simply isn’t mission critical. Find others that tie into the common thread. This helps both your budget and your brainstorming efforts.
2. Incorporate the mission into your learning outcomes and goals for the event. For our annual student organization registration process, students are required to fill out mission-related questions in addition to basic information such as contact numbers, emails, and constitutions:
- What is your organization’s mission?
- How does your organization live out the mission of DePaul?
- What does being a Socially Responsible Leader in your student organization mean to you?
These open-ended questions help us better understand the intent of new and renewing student organizations [and help us to tell our story in our annual reports].
We also have a representative from the Office of Mission & Values open up our annual registration conference for student organizations. By first connecting their student leadership positions to the mission of the university, we are able to set the tone for the conference and make their upcoming student leadership experiences more meaningful.
3. Remember to follow-up with a mission reflection. After an incredibly mission-focused event has occurred, it is important to follow up and reflect upon that experience. My colleagues who oversee service immersion trips in the Vincentian Community Service Office do an impeccable job with this, saying, “Service without reflection is just work.” Whether written, verbal, or as part of a group experience, it is imperative to have a reflection that ties back to the mission of the event that has taken place.
When you have the mission at the foundation of you programmatic efforts, you have a guide for decision making, both financially and in determining learning outcomes for the event at hand. It becomes easier to pull back the superfluous layers and get to what truly matters.
If your mission is related to student persistence and retention, it will be imperative to ensure that your programming reflects these. If your mission is related to identity, inclusion, and social change, make sure that aligns with the programs your office or student organization supports. Bottom line: keep the mission at the forefront and utilize it often. That’s why it exists.
How can you incorporate the mission of your institution into programming on campus?
About the author: Lindsay Ritenbaugh oversees 350 student organizations at DePaul University in Chicago, IL. She supervises two undergraduate student involvement ambassadors and one graduate student, while directly advising DePaul’s Dance Marathon, Best Buddies, and Delta Phi Lambda Sorority, Inc. Lindsay’s free time is spent watching college football (Go Gators!), spending time with Kappa Delta alumnae where she serves as chapter president, playing trivia, and making the most of Broadway in Chicago offerings. She is training to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon this month, but for now, is a professional Netflix marathoner. Connect with her on social media.