As GSU celebrates its 40th year as a University one might ask, what are GSU’s goals for the future? In late October GSU’s board of trustees unanimously approved a revised mission statement (below) in anticipation of the Universities reaccredited next fall. They also approved a New Strategic Plan “Strategy 2015” (www.govst.edu/strategy2015), a roadmap to where the university is headed over the next 6 years. But what does the mission statement below mean to GSU students?
As President Maimon described in her 2006 article in The Presidency many American universities were built in the vision of “a place apart from the real world – an ivory tower, a college on a hill.” This vision stems from the monks in the monasteries trying to preserve history and knowledge, but in modern times this view of a university may be intimidating and elusive for groups of students. GSU’s goal is to continue to preserve knowledge but make it accessible to all students, and create an environment of a public square, “where universities have an opportunity to learn from diverse communities. . . [and] are willing to listen and engage in real dialogue.”
"Governors State University is committed to offering an exceptional and accessible education that imbues students with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to succeed in a global society. GSU is dedicated to creating an intellectually stimulating public square, serving as an economic catalyst for the region, and being a model of diversity and responsible citizenship."
President Maimon summarized the mission statement best as she stated, “This is a very exciting time for GSU, as we celebrate our 40th anniversary, and [an exciting time] for students. It’s a wonderful place to be right now because together we are building a model 21st century university. The students who are here now will not only experience a very high quality education, they will be part of something that I believe is going to influence other universities because we are taking a leadership role in the idea of the university as a public square.”
GSU as an economic catalyst may be best illustrated by a recent presentation that President Maimon gave to the Abby Foundation in Tinley Park. Shortly after President Maimon came to GSU, she spoke to a crowd of about 350 people and she asked those in attendance to raise their hand if they had attended a class, performance, or tour of the sculpture park at Govenors. Surprisingly, 200 hands went up. What people do with their degrees, the jobs they choose after graduating from GSU and the training that students take into the workforce clearly help to stimulate our economy on the Southside of Chicago. It is difficult to ascertain the full reach of GSU’s impact on the local economy because though Alumni office dedicates a significant amount of time surveying graduates, issues with low response rates, and address changes affect results. There is no doubt that GSU provides training, education, and job opportunities for a broad region. GSU even offers training and resources to people who want to open a small business through the Small Business Develop Center(www.centerpointgsu.com).
As the world becomes more interconnected a major goal of GSU is to prepare students for a global society. The USA is interconnected with all other nations, and issues in one country can significantly influence US economics and employment rates. The University’s goals include communicating the new perspective of the global economy into coursework and preparing students to work in this interconnected job market. As Dr. Eric Martin, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, explains, “Part of this is capturing…what we have done, have always done, and know what we are really good at and also a part of this is setting some new goals….that doesn’t mean that its scripted for a single course or for a single major but an infusion [of global perspectives].” Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Rhoades Hudak is currently working to expand global opportunities for students and to infuse this global perspective into the curriculum. The University hopes to expand grant opportunities, internships and connections with global, as well as, local partners.
The goal is to make students aware of the issues, and help them discover that they have a voice. This connects with the mission statement’s idea of Responsible Citizenship where GSU students are aware of the issues, take a stance, and actively influence the outcomes. We saw the power of this strategy in the last presidential election, where much of President Obama’s win has been credited to his ability to motivate voters and make them feel like their voices will be heard. Involvement in local community, the act of voting in elections, and volunteering in the community are major steps we all can take in bettering our communities.
Public square is a reference to the ancient Greeks –agora – here students were taught to be leaders in the city or the Romans – forum - where the downtown square was a hub of communication and big issues were discussed and decided. President Maimon hopes to encourage the GSU community to take an active role in the discussion of current issues and increase student roles in the decision making process. You have recently experienced the emphasis that the University placed on the presidential election, displaying large TV monitors with up to date election coverage and hosting discussion forums on the biggest issues. The University wants to encourage students to become engaged in the issues that affect the university, the state, and the globe.