Norwich’s mission statement is one of the most unique statements found in higher education. We know exactly who we are, why we are here, and where we are going.
We are able to be very specific:
To give our youth an education that shall be American in character—to enable them to act as well as to think—to execute as well as to conceive—“to tolerate all opinions when reason is left free to combat them”—to make moral, patriotic, efficient, and useful citizens, and to qualify them for all those high responsibilities resting upon a citizen of this free republic.
The distinctive terms and phrases found in this definition provide important clues in understanding the essence of this organization, and ultimately the directions we will seek and the outcomes we will require of our students. The most distinguishing terms are:
- American in character
- Global in perspective
- Mutual respect
- Thinking and acting
- Conceiving and executing
- Making moral and patriotic citizens
- Making useful citizens
- Qualifying graduates for responsibilities of a free republic
These, as well as other distinguishing outcomes of the Norwich experience are discussed below:
American in character means that we teach students to understand and hold dear those values and principles upon which this free republic was established. The American experience was unique and world-changing in its development. It was built upon the fundamentals of democracy and the notion that people have inalienable rights. We want our students to know the principles and the events in which these principles manifested which led to the great American experiment, the history of our successful journey, and the reasons the principles manifested in the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are worth fighting for. Between curriculum and student life, we build in this value and ensure our students understand it.
Global in perspective means that our students should understand that the USA is not alone in this world. The world is a very complex place, and civilization and her emerging cultures have actually taken several courses in arriving at the present day. Defining the entire world with American values distorts the reality of a multicultural planet and limits one’s perspective on the history of man’s journey to the present time. Because America is a leader in the world, and because our students are destined to be leaders in America, we must understand and respect all points of view as part of gaining the wisdom to lead. Between curriculum and student life, we build in this value and ensure our students understand it.
Mutual respect, social graces and politeness. Mutual respect is a cornerstone of civilization and a foundation of academia. It is what initiates a salute; it is what allows two people to appreciate each other for the value that they bring to the relationship, no matter how lasting or temporary the relationship is. It is common human decency, kindness, and a cornerstone of a civil society. Mutual respect turns into lasting friendship. Its successful breeding at Norwich University is a primary reason why people develop close relationships with those they otherwise might not. Along with mutual respect, Norwich students and graduates are known for their grace in social situations and their politeness. Norwich’s environment cultivates this characteristic. Between curriculum and student life, we build in these values and ensure our students continue to practice them.
Service is an integral part of the Norwich experience. Students must experience the phenomenon of service to others before self as a vital part of the maturation process and take with them from Norwich the expectation that service will be a lifelong commitment. Leaders serve, and we purport to train leaders. Between curriculum and student life, we need to build in this value and ensure our students experience it.
Experiential learning, thinking and acting, conceiving and executing: Most schools focus on thinking and conceiving. Capt. Alden Partridge, the founder of Norwich, conceived the university on a radical curriculum and pedagogy for the time, immersing students in an experiential-learning environment, hence “acting” and “executing,” additions to the classical model of the day. The context provided in the learning experience from the experiential nature of the curriculum aided the learning process, and for many decades now this has resulted in Norwich graduates who exhibit a solid work ethic, a penchant for good leadership, and a hands-on pragmatic approach. Between curriculum and student life, we build in this value and ensure our students experience it.
Useful citizens: Capt. Partridge was developing “useful,” pragmatic citizens, like civil engineers and chemists, which the young country desperately needed at the time. “Useful” and “experiential” went hand in hand. This was during a period of history where education was far more classical in nature. Partridge’s approach was a perfect match for the young pragmatic nation. To the term “useful” citizens, we might add the term “engaged” citizens as a way to tie together the elements of service and the experiential aspect Partridge was seeking. Students should be committed to achieving the highest ideals of knowledge and skill, both for their own advantage in life and also for the advantage of and service to the community, nation, and world. We teach our students that success is something that should benefit both themselves and others and that their personal goals in life should naturally include both self and others. Between curriculum and student life, we build in this value and ensure our students are ready for citizenship.
Pride: Norwich University is a very proud organization. Her alumni maintain deep bonds with the university and with each other. This bond lies at the heart of Norwich’s success and longevity. Several times during the course of the organization’s history the alumni have come to the rescue of the organization, either through extraordinary personal efforts or by endowing badly needed resources. It is this bond that causes people to stop each other on the highway and show each other their class rings. It is this bond that has endowed the organization handsomely when compared with other organizations of our size. A secondary motto — Norwich Together, Norwich Forever! — resonates with alumni, and underscores the tremendous pride that buttresses the organization. It is this bond that is the spirit of the organization. When you become part of Norwich University, you become part of something very old, very deep, and very proud. This bond pervades not only the students, but also the faculty and staff. Students recognize the faculty and staff, both anecdotally and quantitatively, as being far above the national average in terms of attention, caring, and advising. Faculty and staff are quick to communicate their deep personal caring for students. Between curriculum and student life, we build in this value and promote its outcome.
Transforming: The rigor and the disciplined lifestyle of the Corps experience have historically had a transforming effect on students. The Norwich experience adds value to people, helping them to be leaders, helping them to work hard, and helping them to be responsible citizens. We may not always notice it while the student is on campus, but their performance in society speaks of a great transformation beyond that of other college students. Our motto is “I will try,” meaning “perseverance in the face of adversity.” It provides some insight into the transformation of young students that occurs when they are faced with demanding circumstances. Norwich is a laboratory for these demanding circumstances, and as a result, we attract the most idealistic and energetic students, rather than disconnected and indifferent ones who are merely passing time. It is of paramount importance that we convey enthusiasm for the process of individual transformation that will occur at NU. Students wishing to be transformed will be attracted and they will be willing to cooperate with the process and to buy into the high ideals of personal excellence in service to others. Between curriculum and student life, we build in this value and ensure our students are transformed.
Honesty, ethics: America is great for many reasons, among them is a balanced and lasting form of government and a relatively free economic atmosphere that has encouraged growth and innovation. But a lasting government and economic freedom must be built upon a foundation of honesty. Dishonesty in government or business will ultimately lead to distrust by its citizens, and all will be doomed by heavy regulation, inefficiency, lack of innovation, and ultimately a loss of freedom itself. Norwich plays an important role in society. We reinforce the good in society by placing a lot of emphasis on honesty and ethical behavior. “Moral, patriotic” citizens have an understanding of right and wrong and represent a strong thread which can be interwoven into society’s fabric to strengthen and stabilize it. There may not be any other Norwich value that is as important. Between curriculum and student life, we need to build in this value and require it of our students.
Leadership: The many ingredients discussed above frequently yield young people of considerable substance. Because of Corps of Cadets and ROTC activities and other leadership opportunities, Norwich is a leadership laboratory for many, planting the seeds of leadership that eventually take root, grow, and bloom into extraordinary leaders in business, government, the military and other spheres. Leadership is not merely a formal position in organized groups, but rather, it occurs whenever a person wholeheartedly pursues excellence and thereby inspires others to do the same. We should understand leadership as occurring whenever a person has a positive influence on others. Leadership will continue to be a very visible aspect of this institution, both in marketing and student outcomes. Between curriculum and student life, we build in the value of leadership and promote, if not demand, its outcome.