Vision & Mission
Building just, healthy, and meaningful student learning experiences.
Our vision is our continual aspiration – that constant “to what end” that we strive for in our work. For us, this work is also something that requires our specific expertise. Much like faculty members bring their own expertise into the classroom, Student Affairs brings a knowledge of and proficiency about our students and their needs. This allows Northwestern to fulfill its own purpose and mission as it relates to the education and experiences of our students.
The words in the vision statement were selected intentionally. The use of “building” is purposeful – as it is an all-encompassing verb that connects the front-facing student connections with the importance of the work done by our teams behind the scenes. Without strong infrastructure, a building will not stand. Without direct engagement with our students, a program will not be successful. Without inclusive and engaging environments (physical and virtual), our students cannot connect, engage, and/or learn in a healthy and meaningful way. “Building” also relies on many people – in and outside of our division – to truly construct something sustainable and meaningful. This speaks to the necessary partnerships critical for our students to thrive.
“Just” is rooted in social justice, a commitment at the core of any Student Affairs professional, and most certainly for our division. “Healthy” connects our work to well-being – for our students as well as for our team. “Meaningful” refers to the kind of student learning experience we want to build – those that our students can learn from, connect with, and in which they grow. Combined together, this vision statement keeps us focused on creating, developing, facilitating, advocating for, and ensuring those meaningful student experiences are truly rooted in social justice and grounded in well-being.
Student Affairs cultivates student programs, services, and skills; disrupts barriers; and partners across Northwestern and neighboring communities to create a culture in which all students can thrive.
The mission of our division is the “what” behind what we do. Our previous mission, to “educate our students, engage the community, and enrich the Northwestern experience” needed to evolve as our student needs have evolved over time. The mission also keeps us focused on what we should be doing daily.
Again, the words in the mission statement were chosen quite specifically. “Cultivate” is not unidirectional or one way – it involves agency and connection with our students through the arc of their development. One cannot impart progress on a student – they must be fully engaged participants in that process. Furthermore, Student Affairs does not simply “provide” things to our students; rather, - we intentionally engage our students in program and service design, as “people care about what they help create” (Rue, 2016).
“Disrupts barriers” is more encompassing than our former terminology of “removes barriers”. “Disrupt” is intentionally paired with “barriers” to signify our role in eliminating things that impede student growth, development, and full engagement at Northwestern. While we understand that the word “disrupt” can be interpreted negatively, it is not meant to be in this context. The definition of disrupt embraced by our mission is one that focuses on successfully challenging and changing established processes or services that are not inclusive. “Disrupt” involves discovering, naming, and advocating for systemic change, and offering alternative, inclusive approaches so that systems can be redesigned in an equitable and just manner. Additionally, these barriers to student learning and experience, which exist within both Student Affairs and the university at large, need to be identified and changed in order to make progress toward the development of a just and equitable Northwestern community.
We also intentionally use “thrive” in this mission statement. Thriving is a measurable outcome that takes into account each student’s current state, honors their unique gifts, talents, and dreams, and with that student’s partnership with our team, helps them grow into what they can be in a healthy and meaningful way. This culture – this environment – that we co-create with our students, our partners, and our full Northwestern community – is one in which students can find their passions, their voice, and their direction. In short – while at Northwestern, they thrive.