MSU President's column for Traill County Tribune

October 18, 2014  

Mayville State’s mission of providing educational opportunities continues


The pioneers who settled in Mayville held education in high esteem, and they worked hard to assure that education would be available to their children and those who would follow. The very early citizens of Mayville were successful in their efforts to see that establishment of a college in their town was a provision in the writing of North Dakota’s constitution in 1889. This was a great triumph for those involved, since locating a college in a small town in a very rural setting was highly unlikely. Having won the battle, citizens of the proud community worked hard to lay the groundwork and shape a truly outstanding institution of higher learning.

The founding mission of Mayville State University was to train teachers who would go out into the rural areas and educate children. Mayville Normal School, as it was known in 1889, provided training for countless teachers who taught in the country schools throughout North Dakota and beyond.

Mayville State’s mission has evolved and expanded over the years. The institution, which first offered one-year degrees for teachers was later able to offer two-year degrees and eventually bachelor’s degrees. Today, Mayville State is authorized to offer limited graduate credit, as well as bachelor’s degrees.

Many new programs have been added over the years, and now there are five academic divisions that are educating students in a wide variety of fields - business and computer information systems; health, physical education, and recreation; science and mathematics; teacher education and psychology; and liberal arts. Students of today have many choices.

Methods of delivery have changed too. We now offer classes and degree programs in traditional, on-campus classrooms, as well as in new and innovative ways, such as online and through interactive video. All of these delivery methods help to serve the various needs of today’s students, who may be high school students earning college credit or adults who are place-bound and may already be working in full-time careers.

The current mission of Mayville State University is to educate and guide students, as individuals, so that they may realize their full career potential and enhance their lives. We do this in an environment that reflects our tradition of personal service, commitment to innovative technology-enriched education and dynamic learning relationships with community, employers and society. As a member of the North Dakota University System, Mayville State University offers undergraduate degrees.

Our mission statement (previous paragraph), or statement of the purpose of our organization, guides the actions of the organization, spells out our overall goal, provides a path, and guides decision-making. It was developed as part of the strategic planning process during the mid-1990s. Experts were brought in, and there were many meetings. This was a time when we re-energized our internal and external image around who we really were and what we had to offer. Incredible things were happening at Mayville State, and the mission statement was needed to reaffirm and publicize them and to encourage more such activity. The campus-wide effort that went into developing the mission statement gave Mayville State personnel an opportunity to come together to take a look at how we could together create the kind of future we wanted for the university. The collective wisdom came together in the mission statement that exists today. The goal was to define the university in terms not of what it does, but of the difference it aims to make for the people it serves.

One thing that has not changed since the establishment of Mayville State is individual attention extended to our students. The term “personal service” was first used at Mayville State during the presidency of Carl Swain, the institution’s president from 1923 to 1938, and that concept has remained an important aspect of what makes Mayville State unique, and appeals to the students of today. A student at Mayville State is not a number. He or she is a person, an individual. This was an important consideration when the mission statement was developed. We wanted to retain and advance the concept of personal service, but in ways that made the term come alive for those who had never been here. The importance of personal service continues to be reinforced as it has remained an important component of our strategic plan ever since.

As we reflect on the changes and growth of Mayville State over the last 125 years, we recognize the efforts of the early pioneers who gave us a solid start and set us on a path for future success. It is our privilege to educate and guide students so that they may realize their full career potential and enhance their lives.