Faith-based colleges and universities view their religious affiliation as integral to their mission and identity. This reality makes hiring for mission most important. But, all too often, there is a tendency to downplay mission for hard to fill positions.
Today’s competitive environment makes matters even more difficult. Universities are not just searching for academically qualified candidates. They also are searching for innovators to invigorate their faculty and staff. So, how can a university attract highly qualified, innovative, candidates who also can contribute to its mission?
A crucial part of the answer is clarity about the connection between mission and innovation. Vigorous religious traditions are living traditions. They are grounded in the past, but are not grounded by the past. The difference is a matter of perspective. No doubt, traditions need to be preserved, but enduring traditions are open to ways of expression that most effectively communicate meaning in the world today.
It is vitally important for an institution to be clear about the nature of its religious affiliation and how it contributes to the totality of its mission as a university. This clarity makes explicit the framework for its support of innovative teaching and research. Most importantly, it implicitly sets the foundation for institutional innovation, and the people who can make it happen.
Choosing mission over innovation, or vice versa, is a false choice. The compatibility of the two emanate from the identity of the institution. The clearer a university can be about its religious affiliation and mission the more likely it is to attract faculty and staff who want to contribute to its vibrancy in creative ways.