Mission statements are important aspects of academia, inasmuch as they provide a direction for academic work both within and without the institution. But are mission statements really all that different from one another, within the broad realm of academia? And a broader question also arises– what are the limits of academia?
To explore this question, I’ve looked at two mission statements, from institutions that, one might argue, are well within the realm of academia. The first is obvious included– the University of Maryland’s College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. Its mission is to “advance modern science through its nationally competitive research and educational programs.” The directive that this statement provides is clear: to demonstrate scientific progress through research, to be competitive, and to educate. How the University goes about doing these things is less clear, though one can imagine how it might be manifest.
The second institution is the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Its mission is to “increase knowledge and inspire learning about nature and culture, through outstanding research, collections, exhibitions, and education, in support of a sustainable future.” Less clearly academic in nature, NMNH is still concerned with the same directives as UMD; namely, to do meaningful research, to be outstanding, and to educate. But the Smithsonian takes another step in its mission, to do all these things with an eye toward creating “a sustainable future.” Colleges and universities are implicitly engaged in the same goal, educating the next generations of academics, policymakers, teachers, and citizenry. But to make it a part of the mission statement sets an institution apart from the rest.
So, are those who are part of research museums part of the professoriate? Many of the goals and job requirements are the same: research, instruction, support, and engagement. Can the professoriate include those who are not, in the strictest terms, professors?