A New Mission for Washington College

The Challenge:

How do you help the leadership and board of a historic American college reimagine the language and ideas of their mission? Under the leadership of a new President, nationally recognized Washington College wanted a collaborative process where “safe space” was given to re-examine the words and ideas behind the school and why it exists.

Through months of careful preparation, observation, and analysis, President Mitchell Reiss sought to outline his vision for the school while engaging colleagues and students in discovering a new and inspirational vision statement.

The Approach:

After weeks of careful design and pre-work, including the administration of surveys, interviews with key executives, pre-meetings with President Reiss, and engagement of a diverse set of representatives from across the entire campus, THRUUE Inc. created and delivered an unprecedented two-day workshop set within historic buildings across the Chestertown, Maryland campus.

Through carefully crafted and linked dialogues, THRUUE Inc. Founder and Chief Strategist Daniel Forrester facilitated and guided the group to make a series of mental leaps as old language was retired and new ideas were discovered.

Activities, customized for the Washington College mission and vision experience, included:

  • Grounding conversation with a historian who linked the workshop back to the moments and ideas behind the school’s inception in 1782—including its relationship to President George Washington.
  • Creation of a two day social contract with ground rules and agreed-upon methods for workshop participants to challenge one another and move towards richer, more meaningful dialogue.
  • Voices across campus sessions as each constituency was asked to summarize the essence of “why” Washington College is unique and relevant.
  • Moments of think time where workshop participants were encouraged to reflect, write in supplied journals, and capture key takeaways and insights.
  • Public readings of historic documents that described why the school was founded, including foundational concepts that its visionary founders wished to instill in students through the very first curriculum.
  • Brief and impactful talks where mission, vision, and organizational architecture was placed in a strategic context that created a common language and concepts for moving the workshop forward.
  • Structured breakouts with smaller groups and main room-facilitated sessions with all participants as hundreds of ideas and concepts were woven together into new mission and vision language.

The Results:

New statements were born within a collaborative process during the two-day session. That led to a careful, post-workshop vetting process that ultimately resulted in unanimous adoption of the language by the faculty, student body, and Board. School leaders now apply the ideas within the mission and vision across campus, from attracting prospective students to engaging alumni, and use them to drive behaviors.

 

The students, faculty, and staff members use a shared language of the mission statement, which was revised and revitalized soon after President Reiss’s arrival. It is striking how central and guiding these terms were in all our of conversations. It is a way to differentiate Washington College from its peers. Most mission statements generally make declarations about the individual student’s growth and stop there. Washington College takes a different turn by adding larger social expectations and values, such as civility and moral courage. This is now a touchstone for the college’s identity and self-confidence. Further and admirably, the college rediscovered the significance of its namesake, thereby linking itself by history and image to a powerful global brand. The renewed determination and excitement that originate with these brief sentences and phrases about the college’s purpose carry through consistently with the responses heard from board members and the campus community.
Washington College

 

The new statements are clear and capture the “ultimate why” that underpins all that Washington College is and what it will become:

Mission: “Washington College challenges and inspires emerging citizen leaders to discover lives of purpose and passion.”

Vision: “The enduring values of Washington College—critical thinking, effective communication, and moral courage—move the world.”

Read more at Washington College →

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