[Guest Post] How to write an academic mission statement by Dr. Cathy Mazak
Hey everyone! I met Dr. Mazak on social media. She has great resources on her website about academic writing, which is something that I knew would interest my readers. We brainstormed some ideas on which guest post would make the most sense, and I like this one because it helps you think about your goals as a professional. Anything that helps you think about what type of impact you want to make, and what type of professional you want to be, is a helpful exercise. Hopefully being an engaging, visual communicator makes its way to your mission statement ;)
By Cathy Mazak
Many academic women say that they feel “pulled in a thousand directions.” That’s the main reason they cite for not having time to write.
One of the reasons you might feel pulled is that you are pulled. We are asked to do too many things–and too many different kinds of things–as part of our academic careers. Teaching, student mentoring, committee meetings–it all feels very overwhelming.
If you feel like you are constantly putting out fires, that you are reacting instead of acting when opportunities (and problems) come your way, like everything is just too much and you want to get off this runaway train, then you need an Academic Mission Statement.
Writing an Academic Mission Statement is the first step to finding focus and taking control of your career.
When you clarify and articulate your mission, you can then work to line up all your activities so that they are serving this mission. The result of having everything line up is that you stop feeling so pulled. Everything supports the mission, so you reduce the task-switching cost of being an academic, which is draining your time and energy.
But first thing’s first: you need to write the Academic Mission Statement.
Here’s a template that you can use to create an Academic Mission Statement:
I use [methodologies/theoretical frames] to study [population] [phenomenon] [context] in order to [change you want to see in the world].
And here’s an example of the template filled in (this is my mission statement!):
I use ethnographic methods to study translanguaging in Puerto Rican university classrooms in order to normalize bilingual content learning and inform theories of bilingualism.
How to Use Your Academic Mission Statement
If you write this statement and then just keep sailing along, the helpfulness of this exercise will wear off. So let’s really talk about how to use an academic mission statement.
Focus your intention: I’m not trying to sound all “woo” here but how we think about our careers and the day-to-day activities that make up our careers matters. So once you have your mission statement, put it in your workspace and read it first thing in the morning before you get to work. Commit to doing this every day for two weeks. This exercise will focus your intention and set you on a clear path for the day.
Use your statement to make decisions: Your academic mission statement is like a litmus test for the many decisions you need to make about your time. Your mission should remind you that you have big, important work to do. When opportunities (however awesome they may be) come up that won’t have a direct impact on advancing your mission, you should say no.
Your mission should drive your writing and presenting: Use your mission statement to make choices about the audiences you want to impact. Who do you want reading your work? Where should you be presenting in order to get your big message out there? Use you mission statement to make those choices strategically.
You may feel that having a mission statement makes you inflexible or “stuck” on one path, and less able to react to new opportunities (hello there my free spirits!). Your Academic Mission Statement is not etched in stone, but rather should evolve as you evolve professionally.
For this reason, you should re-visit your mission statement at the beginning of every semester and once in the summer. Do a gut-check to see if the mission is still you or if you need to revise and add a new twist or angle.
If you feel like you want to write and publish more, but you can’t make it happen because you’re pulled in a thousand directions, sign up for my free Academic Woman’s Writing Roadmap Mini Course. The email lessons will introduce you to each stop of the Writing Roadmap, including:
Map your mission
Align your activities
Manage your time
Develop your writing system
Manage your mindset
Set up your publication pipeline
Map out your year