Faith-Based Institutions, Institutional Mission, and the Public Good
AbstractRooted in historical foundations and demonstrated by continued government financial support, one purpose of higher education is to contribute to the “public good,” or support and further social causes and human flourishing. This notion has received renewed attention in both the literature as well as in professional practice. Given the variety of institutional structures (e.g., public, private, religiously affiliated, nonprofit, and proprietary), the influence of institutional mission varies. Yet, aside from institutional leadership, an institution’s mission is potentially most significant in influencing public good. Faith-based higher education institutions often have missions that are inextricably interconnected with service and community engagement. With these missions, faith-based colleges and universities are distinctively positioned to address social issues, engage in service to the local and global community, and to involve students, faculty, and administrators in this shared purpose. These institutions are uniquely accountable and have the greatest potential in this outcome precisely because of their faith commitment that both informs and motivates their policy and practice. In this essay, the role of faith-based institutions of higher education in promoting public good is explored. In addition, an analysis of both opportunities to enhance public good, as well as obstacles and challenges faced are provided.
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