Everything or just a few things

Arial photo the UT Martin Campus, including parts of the farm (left top corner)

I compared the mission statements of two of the schools I attended during my undergraduate degree: University of Tennessee at Martin (UT Martin) and Olds College, in Alberta, Canada. These two schools are similar in many ways but are also different. And they are connected through a reciprocal tuition agreement, so that students from these two schools could easily spend the semester studying abroad at the partner institution. This is what I did during my junior year of college. I lived on campus in Alberta and took classes in the horticulture program.

University of Tennessee at Martin

UT Martin is a public baccalaureate university in the 1869 Land grant system in Tennes

UT Martin logo with the blue and orange skyhawk mascot

ee (we all know what this means know!). It is a smaller university than the flagship land-grant university, University of Tennessee in Knoxville, with 5000-6000 students and is located in rural northwestern Tennessee. The university offers has five colleges and offers many different degrees, including a few graduate programs in business, education and agriculture.


The mission statement of UT Martin plainly expresses what the purpose of the university is:

“The primary purpose of The University of Tennessee at Martin is to provide a quality undergraduate education in a traditional collegiate atmosphere characterized at all levels by close collaboration among students, faculty and staff. In addition, the university is dedicated to meeting lifelong educational needs by providing graduate programs, distance-learning opportunities and other creative endeavors. Furthermore, the university is committed to advancing the regional and global community through scholarly activities, research and public service.”

Olds College

Olds-College-LogoOlds College is a public, Canadian associates college located in rural Alberta, Canada.  The college offers certificates, two year degrees and a few four year bachelors degrees in agriculture, land management, fashion and food service and a very strong trade school program for careers related to agriculture, like equipment operator and welder. The closest thing to Olds College in the US would be a community college.

The mission statement of Olds College is simple and concise, at exactly one sentence.

“Our Mission is to create an environment for learning, inquiry, partnership and communication that supports our students, our employees and our communities in the service of society. “

But, Olds College is one of the schools that has both a missions statement and a vision statement, but then, they went to the extra mile to also write their value statement and outcome statement, explaining how they will accomplish these goals (read more about them here).

Values Statement: At Olds College we value:

  • Empowerment of learners
  • Rural Community development
  • Teamwork
  • Continuous Improvement

Vision Statement

Olds College shall be the premier integrated learning and applied research community specializing in agriculture, horticulture, land and environmental stewardship.


The most obvious differences between these two mission statements is their formatting and approach, which I think can be described as traditional and directed. UT Martin’s mission statement actually includes the wording “traditional collegiate atmosphere” and the mission statements reflects the length, format and tone that you would expect from a higher education institution’s mission statement, including  being longer and more general that the one from Olds College.

Olds College’s mission statement is written as a mission, vision and outcome statements, in short sentences and bulleted lists. The tone is personal (i.e. “Our mission” and “we value”) and more specific and directed, as seen in their emphasis on the fields in agricultural and natural resource management and a desire to serve rural communities.

Maybe Olds’ mission statement can be more direct because they are a college, with fewer degree programs while the university’s mission statement would need to more encompassing to include all the different fields?


Education, for traditional students in classrooms and the greater community they serve, is a high priority and emphasized in both of these mission statements.  Another word that appears in both mission statements is “collaboration” among all members of the university, not just the faculty and students.  I think that this means that these school recognize that education and learning is something that happens more often outside of the classroom and from people in addition to the teachers, like the dorm advisor, barn manager or the women serving breakfast in the cafeteria who asks how your morning is going and genuinely cares about your answer.

Despite not being classified as research institutions, both of these schools list applied research and community outreach and education as a priority.

Are these statements true?

It’s wonderful to have a beautiful and aspirational mission statement, but at the end of the day everyone wants to know if you really mean it. If what you say is what you do. Based on my experience at these two schools (although only a limited time at Olds), I can say that yes, these schools live up to their mission statements.

Yes, these schools live up to their mission statements

Education is and continues to be a strong priority for both of these schools. Olds College is trying some exciting new things by creating a completely digital curriculum and introducing gamification and UT Martin just called me yesterday asking if I could help them increase number of their students receiving scholarship from 90% to 100%.  The attitude of collaboration for learning extends beyond just faculty and students, but also to staff and the greater university town and alumni community.







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