Striving for Excellence in University Education
TWU Core Values Statement Series No. 5 (February 5, 2000)
Trinity Western University intends to be a community where a vision for pursuing excellence characterizes every area of activity. Pursuit of academic and intellectual excellence are at the heart of all university education, but TWU strives to understand these goals from an even broader perspective that integrates them with high standards for personal, moral, and spiritual development, all as part of the single task of growth toward maturity in Christ. This broad goal could be summed up as development of excellence in the Christian mind, an overall attitude and outlook that values establishing and pursuing high standards as part of devotion to the glory of God.
TWU graduates should exhibit a vibrant and thriving relationship with Christ, growing consistently as His disciples. They should be people who value rigorous devotion to study and excellence in academic achievement as a necessary and significant expression of this larger objective. Cultivation of excellence in the skills of leadership is closely linked to the achievement of academic and professional excellence, but always with the recognition that Christian leaders must strive for excellence of biblical servant leadership as the quality that should characterize their efforts above all others.
Excellence requires setting high standards, vigorously pursuing them, and eventually significant realization of high achievement. Therefore we strive for excellence in teaching and learning within the context of programs that further the mission of the University. We believe that God is pleased and honoured when His followers stretch their intellectual capacities and broaden the bounds of their understanding. Faculty must encourage students toward excellence and, in turn, the University must support faculty in their own quest for excellence in teaching, scholarship, and research. Our goal is to establish and maintain high educational standards for all undergraduate and graduate programs, standards that will be acknowledged as excellent by the larger Canadian university community.
Achievement of excellence at this level demands provision of the resources necessary to support excellence, including faculty, facilities, and all the varied and extensive necessities that support university-level education in the humanities, sciences, arts, athletics, and other areas. These resources must be repaired, renewed, and expanded over time. We also recognize that excellence entails care and preservation of our campus environment with its rich and diverse wildlife and botanical features.
Our vision of excellence includes the goal of excellence in whole-person development, an ideal that includes development of academic excellence in the classroom as well as excellence in student life, athletics, personal maturity, and the ability to live and function within community.
As part of our vision of excellence, we also acknowledge the need to pursue high standards for relationships with and among employees, including devotion to evaluation with encouragement, proper compensation, and ethical employment and business practices.
Mature reflection upon God's love and grace motivates us not only to insist on high standards, but also to recognize that people must grow in order to attain these standards. Therefore we strive for excellence as learners. However, above all, we strive for excellence that glorifies and pleases God, and we acknowledge Him as the ultimate judge of all that is good.
THE MISSION OF TRINITY WESTERN UNIVERSITY
The mission of Trinity Western University, as an arm of the church, is to develop godly Christian leaders, positive, goal-oriented university graduates with thoroughly Christian minds; growing disciples of Jesus Christ who glorify God through fulfilling the Great Commission, serving God and people in the various marketplaces of life.
A COMMUNITY WITH A VISION FOR EXCELLENCE
Our vision is to be a university that fulfills its mission with excellence to the glory of God. As an entire university community, we strive to develop an atmosphere where high achievement is valued, encouraged, cultivated, realized, and recognized. Every member of our community is expected to set a personal standard of excellence and to encourage and support others to do so as well.
Excellence in the Christian Mind. Our mission commits us to developing "thoroughly Christian minds" or, we might equally say, "excellent Christian minds." This mission-driven goal implies learning to think with accuracy, depth, creativity and humility from a thoroughly biblical perspective. It requires development of significant general and specific knowledge and also appreciation for beauty, wisdom, and moral sensitivity.
We believe that cultivation of a thoroughly Christian mind is fully compatible with pursuit of the highest intellectual ideals and standards. We intend to be recognized within the community of Canadian universities as an institution where the value of academic excellence is nurtured in teaching, scholarship, research, and learning. TWU must be a place where students are encouraged to set, pursue and achieve high academic goals.
We believe that "thoroughly Christian minds" can exist fully only in "thoroughly Christian people." Therefore, we strive also for excellence as a biblically functioning human community upholding high standards of whole-person development, a community where the values of integrity, caring, and mutual respect are pursued with integrity. We aspire to be a community where people are treated with dignity, their efforts to excel encouraged, and their contributions acknowledged and compensated in an appropriate manner. Our goal is that every member of the community will be encouraged toward full personal commitment to Christ and supported in growth toward an authentic and mature Christian faith.
Establishing High Standards for Excellence. Excellence always evidences a deep awareness of what constitutes the standards of excellence appropriate to a particular realm. Each person and area in the University must develop a mature understanding of the knowledge, skills, and accepted standards of excellence appropriate to those activities. We expect that excellence will be evaluated also against potential, and therefore all members of our community should strive to realize as fully as possible their God-given capacities and talents, using them to the full and with joy out of humble devotion to God.
OUR VISION FOR EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE
Our mission of developing "university graduates with thoroughly Christian minds," people who are well-rounded, thoughtful followers of Christ, is a lofty and sacred task, worthy of our best efforts as individuals and as an institution. Trinity Western University has the unique opportunity to address the whole individual, heart, mind and soul, from the perspective of a biblical value system. We see spiritual development and academic excellence as concomitant aspirations.
Graduates Who Excel as Disciples of Jesus Christ. Our greatest legacy as an institution will be preparation of graduates who have a vibrant and thriving relationship with Christ, growing disciples who will visibly live and communicate on behalf of Jesus Christ. The consistent lives and good works of such people will provide a compelling witness before others to the message of the gospel and will bring glory to God in heaven. We will strive to provide, through instruction and opportunities for service, every occasion for the student to grow toward this end. We aspire for our students to follow Christ's example of love and care for others. As students achieve these goals with excellence, they will be unmistakable disciples and compelling influences in the contexts where God places them. They will then leave the rare testimony of an integral, intentional and Spirit-led life.
Graduates Who Excel in Academic Achievement. Discipleship for university students requires rigorous devotion to development of academic excellence. In this age of information and knowledge, only those with finely developed intellectual and communication skills will command attention and respect. We intend for our students to master the foundational elements of their discipline as well as to develop a wide acquaintance with the latest issues, developments and technologies associated within it. We envision our graduates as well prepared for the next step in their educational path or the work place, and regardless of the goal to which God directs them, it is our goal to prepare them to be achievers of excellence in their contexts. Therefore, we will aim to encourage them to realize their best potential as learners while attending TWU and to be people who will continue to grow intellectually long after graduation.
Graduates Who Excel in Leadership. Leadership is a distinctive of TWU. Our University mission has a primary focus on development of godly leaders, people whose excellent skill is matched with strength of character. We are committed to developing leadership abilities, through study, mentoring, and provision of firsthand experience. We expect our graduates to employ their leadership and motivational skills, to solve problems, to accomplish goals, and to serve in the community. In today's worldwide economic and communications context, we strive for our students to be globally minded and prepared. They should be people who think globally both about opportunities for their own career advancement and also about personal contribution and service to the needs of the developing and marginalized world. The biblical ideal of servanthood must be promoted as one of the most important marks of leadership excellence.
Graduates Who Excel in Stewardship. Essential to the character of a disciple is a mindset of stewardship. Our graduates should recognize that receiving a university degree is a great privilege and equips them with a precious resource. We will encourage students to be good stewards of the minds and bodies that God has given them. Recognizing that God is the creator and sustainer of the earth, we desire that our graduates should be good stewards of the environment. More fundamental still, we desire that they be wise and responsible stewards of the privileges of the freedom in which they live. We expect them to participate in the activities of voting, holding public office, church leadership, and other endeavours that those freedoms provide, and to be advocates of freedom and justice for all people.
Graduates Who Evidence Whole-Person Development. In all of these dimensions we strive for maturity, balance, and integrity. Our goal is to cultivate people who explore and develop their God-given capacities. This will include valuing intellectual development, healthy lifestyle, athletic skill, and creativity in all its dimensions including musical, artistic, and dramatic sensitivity and skill. We do not expect that every person will excel equally in every area, but we strive for broad appreciation of the whole range of endeavours at a university and development of excellence in areas that are compatible with each person's capabilities and interests.
ACADEMIC PROGRAMS THAT DEMAND EXCELLENCE
A university's academic programs reflect its distinctive perspective on teaching and learning and the value the university places on these activities. At TWU we value excellence in academic programs because we believe that in this area, as well as all others, a wise pursuit of excellence glorifies God.
Excellence in academic programming begins with programs that blend well with the overall mission of the University. Such programs will be directed toward our mission of developing leadership in University graduates who have cultivated a disciplined "Christian mind" that enables them to serve God and people in the marketplaces of life. Thoughtful, in depth integration of a biblical worldview will be an essential element in all our programs.
TWU is primarily an undergraduate teaching institution. Undergraduate programs must be designed to thoroughly prepare students for what comes next, whether it is further study or entry into a career. Therefore, excellence requires designing program objectives that are carefully developed with a view to providing basic academic foundations that can lead into studies of increasing difficulty and deeper understanding as the student advances in knowledge and ability. Excellent programs are directed toward guiding the student to understanding the current content of the topics studied but go beyond that to focus on applying the material for problem solving, which prepares the student for a future in an environment of constant change. Teaching and learning activities will be engaging, thought provoking, and intellectually demanding, challenging students toward high achievement accompanied by humility, gratitude, and a sense of stewardship.
To ensure that University programs are current and comprehensive, informal and formal research on programs must take place. Informally, faculty and Deans of particular programs need to be in touch with faculty from other universities and understand the requirements of graduate schools and businesses that students strive to enter. Formally, the University must have program development groups to research the present and future validity of said programs. Regular reviews of programs will ensure that programs do not wane in quality. Research funds and time need to be available for Deans or chosen members of programs to formally research the movement of professions and graduate programs; this will enable TWU to keep abreast of trends and intelligently decide if certain programs are worth pursuing in light of the University's mission.
TWU also offers graduate programs in which the goal is also to sustain a standard of excellence. Excellent graduate programs build on undergraduate foundations but move well beyond them, and their content and methods assume much higher levels of personal and intellectual maturity in students, challenging students toward more sophisticated abilities for independent thought, research, and application.
However, because TWU is primarily an undergraduate institution, we reject the thought that our undergraduate programs are merely the preliminary steps toward our true objectives. Undergraduate programs should always have a high priority in allocation of our financial resources, our most able faculty members, and the other needs that support quality education. We value research and scholarship highly and place significant emphasis on how these activities contribute to teaching effectiveness. Senior faculty will continue to teach at all undergraduate levels rather than moving primarily into instruction of upper-level students or graduate students. For all of these reasons, development of graduate programs will be highly selective and limited.
FACULTY WHO MODEL EXCELLENCE
An excellent university must be dedicated to the hiring and development of excellent faculty as its primary source of academic credibility, pedagogical effectiveness, and spiritual leadership. The majority of faculty should be tenure-track or tenured with the terminal degree (usually the Ph.D.) in their disciplines. The faculty at Trinity Western University must maintain and model excellence to fulfil our mission and be faithful to our Lord. The guidelines for faculty excellence (in the Criteria for Promotion and Tenure) define our standards. It is vital that the University supports these criteria through the Deans and the Promotion and Tenure Committees and encourages and rewards faculty who strive to achieve these criteria.
One of the University's top priorities should be the support and development (including appropriate remuneration and resources) of faculty with strong pedagogical skills, high academic standards, and personal commitment to student growth through mentoring and advising.
Intrinsically related to pedagogy and scholarship is the faculty's integration of faith and their academic disciplines. Faculty should be committed to the complex and continuous process of developing a Christian worldview in their research and teaching.
Research and scholarship are absolutely essential to credible academics and competent teachers. Faculty should be expected and enabled (through adequate Professional Development Funds, research time, and sabbaticals) to engage in continuous professional development in order to enrich their disciplines and their classrooms.
AN EDUCATIONAL ENVIRONMENT THAT ENCOURAGES EXCELLENCE
The impact of our aspirations toward excellence will be diminished if there is not support for excellence in every aspect of the campus environment. Therefore, every area of the TWU community should develop its own understanding of the implications of excellence for its own activities as well as an appreciation for how its activities should support and encourage the pursuit of excellence in other areas.
For example, because we aspire toward excellence in whole-person development, we recognize the importance of pursuing excellence in the area of student life and student community. Students must be encouraged to set high goals for development in overall personal growth, depth and maturity of Christian faith, and the skills of interacting with and living in community and in connection with a wide range of balanced and healthy activities. Student life programming should uphold these ideals as part of an approach that encourages high academic achievement as well. At the same time, faculty should encourage not only academic achievement but also personal growth and maturity in other areas.
Administrative and staff areas should set high standards for the performance of their tasks and for the manner in which those tasks support the primary educational goals of the University. These standards must include recognition that excellence as a community requires high standards for the relationship of supervisors to employees and for the University's conduct of personnel relationships in every aspect.
RESOURCES THAT SUPPORT EXCELLENCE
Pursuing excellence in university education includes providing physical and human resources that are appropriate and necessary for the task and discipline and which match the promises made to students as they were encouraged to enter the University. These resources must be available at a level that enables the University to carry out its mission with a high level of quality and efficiency.
One of the first priorities for excellence is to have academic buildings with a variety of well-equipped teaching spaces. Classrooms must be adaptable to the changing methods of teaching in university. Each classroom should have equipment for teaching a variety of disciplines, and these must be conveniently located to the various academic departments in the University. (Examples of standard equipment are overhead projectors, video disc, video tape playback facilities, and moveable tables in smaller classrooms). Both large classrooms for large lectures and smaller classrooms to accommodate discussion groups must be available. Each full time faculty person should be equipped with an office that will accommodate the professor and at least 2-3 students for meetings. These offices must be equipped with a computer terminal and have access to e-mail and print facilities.
The resources required for excellence are diverse; each area requires the tools appropriate to its task. In the fine arts, there are requirements for musical instruments, performance space, and art studios and supplies. A fine arts facility suitable to support both large and small dramatic presentations must be an integral part of the campus. Both large and small auditoriums for musical events of various sizes must be part of this facility. Practice rooms for choir, band, and dramatic presentations must be available. Physical education and athletics must have well-equipped gymnasium facilities with adjoining lockers. Change and storage rooms must be available to serve indoor sports. Outdoor facilities must include practice and playing fields equipped to serve in all weather conditions. The communications department must have modern facilities for practice and production of television and radio programming, to support the goal of preparing Christians to enter the media. Other areas have different that also require attention.
In the sciences, modern well-equipped laboratories must be available for each of the science disciplines as well as for language instruction. Attached to the laboratories must be preparation and storage facilities. Several laboratories should be equipped with modern audio-visual equipment to facilitate the use of overheads, videotapes, or video discs. The equipment in the laboratories must be up-to-date, and common equipment needs to be strategically placed so that all students can access it. To keep laboratory facilities at an expected level for university education, a program must be in place to update and modernize equipment and facilities on a regular (5-10 year) basis.
The heart of any university is its library. The library must have sufficient print, media, and electronic resources to serve the programs at the University. The facility must be spacious enough to provide adequate study space, room to house the library books, along with conference and meeting space. Electronic access to resources available through the Internet must be available to all students and faculty.
Human resources are necessary to provide excellent education. For most of the sciences these will consist of technicians, laboratory supervisors, and junior faculty who specialize in teaching laboratory courses. Physical education requires equipment managers, coaches, and teaching assistants. A fine arts facility requires stage managers, assistants, and program coordinators. Production coordinators and assistants must be available to support media production. The library staff must be adequate to provide the full range of assistance in a complex academic environment. God has entrusted us with a diverse and beautiful setting to undertake our educational enterprise. This features the Salmon River and two of its tributaries, forested areas, fields, and a lake. The flora and fauna in this area are rich and diverse, and include a number of species that are on the endangered list. A substantial portion of the campus has been designated as a "Creation Laboratory", whose abundance of wildlife and botanical features must be maintained as a living lab to support several of our programs. Three of these are the Environmental Studies program, the Biology major, and the Physical Geography program.
THE JOURNEY TOWARD EXCELLENCE
Excellence is never attained upon first attempt but is always the outcome of persistent effort invested over time in pursuit of a high goal.
Growing Toward Excellence. The journey toward excellence begins with a personal vision for achievement and a commitment before God to pursue it. The vision unfolds as it is translated into action through personal development, study, experimentation, and growing skill. Ultimately, the pursuit is rewarded with the fruit of high achievement. Clearly, excellence is the result of a process of development.
Younger members of our community are often just beginning to develop a personal vision for excellence. Others, having captured the vision, are working to cultivate the knowledge and skills essential for high achievement. We hope that there will be many among us who are regularly achieving and sustaining excellence as the outcome of their efforts.
By emphasizing growth, we strive to balance our passion for pursuit of high goals with our desire to be a learning community where people are provided with affirmation and support as they develop and to be a Christian community where the grace of God prevails. Therefore, we strive for an approach to excellence that is firm but gracious, never fully satisfied with less than the best but always encouraging those who are stretching toward the next levels of achievement.
The More Excellent Way. As highly as we value excellence, we are mindful of the Bible's cautions to us that "if I have all knowledge but have not love, I am nothing" (I Cor 13:2). Therefore, above all, we strive for excellence in living the "more excellent way" (I Cor 13:1) of Scripture: love. Christian excellence entails developing deep love of God, people.
We are also aware that "if there is knowledge, it will pass" (I Cor. 13:8) as will all human achievements. Therefore, we acknowledge that God is the ultimate judge, not only of the facts of achievement but also of the motives that produce it. High achievement in pursuit of worldly recognition, pride, and personal advantage is not a noble goal. Therefore, we commit ourselves always to strive for excellence in Gods sight only, humbly submitting all our accomplishments to His review.