Faith-Based Institutions, Institutional Mission, and the Public Good

Keywords: Faith-based higher education, higher education, mission, mission statement, global good, common good, service


Rooted 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.


Adrian, W. (2007). Globalization and the Christian idea of a university (or, the lexus and the olive Tree, and higher education). Christian Higher Education, 6,(4), 299-320. doi: 10.1080/15363750701268137

Antone, H. S. (2002). The challenges of globalization to religious education: Some experiences and reflections from Asia. Religious Education, 97(3), 226-237.

Astin, A. W., Astin, H. S., Lindholm, J. A., Bryant, A. N., Calderone, S., &

Szelenyi, K. (2005). The spiritual life of college students: A national study of college students’ search for meaning and purpose. Los Angeles, CA: Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA.

Brandeis College Website (2015). Retrieved on November 28th, 2015, from

Butler, J. (Ed.) (1989). New directions for student services: Religion on campus (No. 46). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Cole, D., & Ahmadi, S. (2010). Reconsidering campus diversity: An examination of Muslim students’ experiences. The Journal of Higher Education, 81(2), 121-141.

Daniels, J. R. (2015). An exploratory comparative case study of employee engagement in Christian higher education (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Azusa Pacific University, Azusa, CA.

Dayton, W. D. & Strong, D. M. (2014). Rediscovering an Evangelical heritage: A tradition and trajectory of integrating piety and justice (2nd Ed). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Delucchi, M. (1997). “Liberal arts” colleges and the myth of uniqueness. The Journal of Higher Education, 68, 414-426.

Dillon, M. (1996). The persistence of religious identity among college Catholics. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 35, 65-70.

Ferrari, J. R., & Velcoff, J. (2006). Measuring staff perceptions of university identity and activities: The mission and values inventory. Christian Higher Education, 5, 243-261. doi: 10.1080/1536375060068552

Firmin, M. W., & Gilson, K. M. (2010). Mission statements analysis of CCCU member institutions. Christian Higher Education, 9, 60-70. doi: 10.1080/15363750903181922

Gonzaga University Website. (2015). Retrieved on December 12th, 2015, from

Goudzwaard, B., Vennen, M. V., & Heemst, D. V. (2007). Hope in troubled times: A new vision for confronting global crisis. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Grinnell College Website. (2015). Retrieved on December 2nd, 2015, from

Groody, D. G. (2007). Globalization, spirituality, and justice: Navigating the path to peace. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Gurock, J. S. (1988). The men and women of Yeshiva: Higher education, orthodoxy, and American Judaism. New York: Columbia University Press.

Gustafson, J. N. (2011). Exploring frameworks to integrate globalization, mission, & higher education: Case study inquiry at two higher education institutions in the Pacific Northwest. (Doctoral dissertation). Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest Dissertation Publishing.

Halperin, E.C. (2001). The Jewish problem in U.S. medical education: 1920-1955. Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 56(2), 140-167.

Handy, Robert (1950). George D. Herron and the Kingdom Movement. Church History (American Society of Church History). 19(2), 97–115. doi:10.2307/3162192. JSTOR 3162192.

Horowitz, H.L. (1987). Campus life: Undergraduate cultures from the end of the eighteenth century to the present. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Hughes, A. W. (2012). Abrahamic Religions: On the Uses and Abuses of History. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Hunt, T. C., & Carper, J. C. (1996). Religious higher education in the United States: A source book.

Kibuuka, H. E. (2001). Vision and mission statements in Christian higher educational management in Eastern Africa. Journal of Research on Christian Education, 10, 87-114.

Kreber, C., & Mhina, C. (2007). The values we prize: A comparative analysis of the mission statements of Canadian universities. Higher Education Perspectives, 3(1), 60-79.

Levenson, J. D. (2012). Inheriting Abraham: The legacy of the patriarch in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Levine, A., & Cureton, J.S. (1998). When hope and fear collide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Lopez, D. (2001). Institutional ethos: Conveying the essence of Loma Linda University's mission (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Dissertations & Theses: The Humanities and Social Sciences Collection database. (AAI 3010365) Globalization, Mission, & Higher Education

Mardsen, G. M. (1996). The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Meyer, M.A. (1976). “In the days of Isaac Mayer Wise.” In S.E. Karff (Ed.), Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion at One Hundred Years (pp. 7-49). Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press.

Morgan, J. (1969). The Development of Sociology and the Social Gospel in America. Sociological Analysis (Oxford University Press), 30(1), 42–53. doi:10.2307/3709933

Morphew, C. C., & Hartley, M. (2006). Mission statements: A thematic analysis of rhetoric across institutional type. The Journal of Higher Education, 77(3), 456-471.

Ng, G. A. (2002). Religious education in an age of globalization: Glimpses of a conversation. Religious Education, 97(3), 199-207. doi: 10.1080/00344080293360879

Opus Prize Website. (2016). Retrieved on December 12th from

Sachar, A. L. (1995). Brandeis University: A host at last. Hanover, NH: Brandeis University Press.

Seattle Pacific University Website (2016). Retrieved on January 9th from

Skorton, D. J. (2007). A global outreach plan for colleges. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 54(4), p. B 28.

Thelin, J. R. (2004). A history of American higher education. Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press

Thivierge, G. R. (2003). Globalization and Catholic higher education: A dialogue for harnessing the impact of globalization. Higher Education in Europe, 28(1), 79-82. doi: 10.1080/0379772032001

Tichi, C. (2011). Civic passions: Seven who launched progressive America (and what they teach us). Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (January 2015). Re-thinking education: Toward a global common good. Paris, France: The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Volf, M. (1994). Theological reflections on the relation between church and culture in 1 Peter. Ed Audito, 10, 15-30.

Volf, M. (2011). Allah: A Christian response. New York, NY: HarperOne.

Wattles, J. (1997). The golden rule. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Wilson, G. G. (1996). Of mission statements and missions. Human Development, 17, 8-12.

Woodrow, J. (2006). Institutional mission: The soul of Christian higher education. Christian Higher Education, 5, 313-327. doi: 10.1080/1536370600860778

Zaytuna College Website (2015). Retrieved on November 28th, 2015, from

How to Cite
Daniels, J. R., & Gustafson, J. N. (2016). Faith-Based Institutions, Institutional Mission, and the Public Good. Higher Learning Research Communications, 6(2), 91-101.