Suzanne KashnowEditor’s Note: Suzanne Kashnow is the admissions manager for the School of Nursing at Walden University. She has supported Walden’s Office of Admissions since 2007, first in the Baltimore office, and now in Columbia, Maryland. She earned her BA in Psychology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2000, and her MS in Environmental Sciences and Policy from Johns Hopkins University in 2013. She also runs a small photography business. She lives in Baltimore with her husband, their two children, two dogs, and a cat.

Walden University provides a diverse community of career professionals with the opportunity to transform themselves as scholar-practitioners so that they can effect positive social change.

As Dr. Eric Riedel, chief academic officer of Walden University, shared in a previous post, The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) Steering Committee is made up of several subcommittees—five of which are tasked with writing a component of Walden’s HLC accreditation assurance argument. The assurance arguments are based on the five criteria for HLC accreditation.

Criterion One, the subcommittee on which I serve, focuses on an institution’s mission: how well it is communicated and understood, its influence within the institution, its relationship to a diverse society, and its commitment to the public good.

A mission statement is a declaration of an organization’s function, goals, and philosophies—a short statement that serves as a set of guiding principles. It provides direction for decision making and also communicates intent to our community. Walden’s mission is to “provide a diverse community of career professionals with the opportunity to transform themselves as scholar-practitioners so that they can effect positive social change.” This shared purpose is posted on our website and infused throughout our course content, university events and initiatives, and even our employee onboarding.

You can’t be a part of Walden’s community and not have some basic level of understanding of the mission and the phrase “A higher degree, a higher purpose.” You may have participated in a Global Days of Service project by volunteering your time in the community to plant trees, serve food to those in need, or revitalize a neighborhood school. And the Walden alumni magazine and Spotlight on Walden blog are brimming with stories of Walden graduates and students and how they have used their degrees to change the world. Our job as members of the Criterion One subcommittee is to show just how far-reaching Walden’s mission really is, in terms of the impact on an institution’s day-to-day operations, and it’s been an inspiring exercise so far.

However, the Criterion One assurance argument is more than a description or explanation of the mission statement. The subcommittee is tasked with drafting a document that uses evidence-based writing to demonstrate Walden’s mission in action, within both the institution and society at large. We are gathering evidence to show how Walden has publicly articulated a mission committed to the public good, and highlight the transformation of our students from global citizens to scholar-practitioners.

Evidence demonstrating Walden’s actualization of the mission comes in many forms. A helpful source of evidence for the Criterion One subcommittee has been the 2014 Review of Social Change at Walden University, an internal report that compiles our social change efforts across the entire institution. One example illustrated within the report is a tool that was developed to aid in Walden’s periodic academic program reviews: the Curriculum Guide for Social Change, which provides faculty members with support for incorporating social change throughout Walden’s courses and programs. Walden’s website also has a page dedicated to social change, explaining such initiatives as the Scholars of Change video contest, conferences and speaker series, awards, scholarships, and more.

Over the last 9 months, the Criterion One subgroup has looked through these resources and the evidence that demonstrates the level of commitment Walden has to supporting its mission in a tangible way. As your input is crucial to our progress, we now ask you: What perspective does your role within the Walden community offer as it relates to Walden’s mission? What connections do you see between our mission statement and learning outcomes for our students and alumni?

Please join in the conversation and provide any comments, questions, or thoughts that pertain to our Pathway to HLC Excellence to HLCFeedback@waldenu.edu.

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