I learned something intriguing about Harvard University today: “Harvard University…does not have a formal mission statement.” I took pause after reading that sentence. Surely an Ivy League university that has a solid gold reputation built on scholastic excellence and outstanding academic achievements has a mission statement; perhaps they just hadn’t verbalized it in Times New Roman 12-point font for all Web surfers to read. I wasn’t satisfied, so I dug a little deeper. Harvard University does not, in fact, have a mission statement; however, they have a values statement, which centers on upholding “certain basic values.” In short: respect, honesty, integrity, excellence, and accountability.
Accountability. That’s a big word. Not because it has 14 letters, which gives no contest to 26-letter “esophagogastroduodenoscopy,” but because its definition implies rather weighty responsibility to someone or for something.
I thought about what that might mean for faculty. Every educational institution holds some accountability for its students’ successes, being responsible to their students for quality education. Harvard is no exception. To that end, their Office of Student Affairs “encourages and supports student success by providing a variety of support services, programs, and activities to enhance the student experience.”
So what do we at Career Step offer that fulfills our responsibility to our students in such a manner? For students facing the challenges of the practicum, we’ve made available the Transcription Webinar that addresses the frustrations of style versus error. Throughout the practicum, there are three opportunities to have your reports graded the same way they would be on the final exam by means of the CN (Clinic Notes), BAC (Basic Acute Care), and AAC (Advanced Acute Care) assessment tests. To help take away those final exam jitters, we offer the Pre-final Webinar. But the support services and activities don’t end there! Other things you can take advantage of include the weekly Thursday Moderated Chat and daily Ask an Instructor chats, the Study Planner, several forums, access to Student Support via email and telephone, resume review, and so on. (There are simply too many things to list them all!) Perhaps you’ve already been the recipient of these support services. If you haven’t been yet, why not take advantage of our offerings?
Accountability and success is a two-way street, though. As much as a school is responsible for quality education, students are responsible for quality learning. It is only with both of these components that success can be intimately entertained. Therefore, Harvard College, which does have a mission statement, “encourages students…to assume responsibility for the consequences of personal actions.” Generally, when we think of “college” and “personal actions” and “consequences” all in the same sentence, we think of something along the lines of binge drinking the night before a big test—but how about time management, honest self-assessment, and diligent study? Are those not also personal actions that carry consequences directly linked to one’s success?
An excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter used the following quote from Douglas B. Reeves: “We have done a splendid job of holding nine-year-olds accountable. Let me suggest as a moral principle that we dare not hold kids any more accountable than we expect to hold ourselves.” While this quote, in context, applies to a different setting than what we’re discussing now, I found the ideas it stirred up in my mind to be quite relevant.
As parents, we expect several things from our nine-year-olds when it comes to education. We expect them to listen in class, fully participate in activities, complete their homework, study for exams, ask for help, take no shortcuts, learn to research, make and reach goals, stick to the school’s schedule, and complete their grade level in a timely manner.
Now ask, do you expect that of yourself? Or do you make excuses you would never allow your nine-year-old to make? I’m not talking about the time you caught little Tommy trying to entice the family dog into eating his homework (quite frankly, I doubt you’d entertain the equivalent idea of trying to entice the family dog into eating your foot pedal); I’m talking about when little Susie sat at the table all evening doing her half-hour reading assignment because she just had to tell little Tommy all the details of what she ate for lunch that day and then she had to share the juicy details with the poor family dog that I keep dragging into this. In other words, I’m talking about falling prey to distractions: email, Facebook, games, T.V., phone calls… playing with the family dog. Does any of this sound familiar?
Let’s go back to Harvard College’s mission statement, that students should “assume responsibility for the consequences of personal actions.” It took me a long time after initially reading that phrase to see another side of it. Call me a glass-is-half-empty kind of gal, but I couldn’t seem to break away from a negative outlook on that statement. I kept thinking about how negative actions produce negative results. But then the light bulb went on that by the same token, positive actions produce positive results and we can own those consequences too!
Setting and reaching goals, using time wisely, making concentrated effort to focus and progress at a consistent pace are all personal actions that will result in your success—successfully graduating, successfully securing employment, and successfully maintaining that employment. By your choices and actions you can hold yourself accountable and own your success!