Research Files: The Mission of IWU

This post records an answer to a question regarding the process for drafting the most recent IWU Mission Statement. It extends that question further to explore the origins of the phrase “liberal education” that appears in the IWU Mission statement.

     Most recently, CUPP was charged with revising the Mission Statement as part of the Strategic Planning work done from 2000 to 2003 (see Record Group 10-2/16/6 Strategic Planning Committee, 2003-2004 (Folder1). The first page lists all committee members for the final year and even though the minutes reference a draft revision being circulated, there isn’t one in the packet.
[N.B., Many governance records, like CUPP minutes, are accessible online. If using the site from off campus, an IWU login is needed. I have summarized my findings for those who lack the necessary credentials.]
     We have to go to the CUPP Minutes from August 27, 2003 that note Wes Chapman was taking on the revision work of an earlier version. I have not attempted to find what version they started out with in their minutes because it must have been the published version from the 1990 catalog which shows the most recent wording differences. The only real discussion I saw recorded on the work is in the Faculty Meeting for September 8, 2003 (see pdf p. 5). Most minutes just mention discussion and don’t detail them but a few refer to minor word changes that have nothing to do with the use of the word liberal.
The Board of Trustees made minor revisions at the October 20-21, 2003 meeting and then approved the version adopted by the Faculty (see RG 1-2/9/29 : 2003 Oct. 20-21
Board of Trustees Meeting Packet). The Faculty minutes on this topic are for October 6, 2003 (see p. 3).
AACU Statement on Liberal Learning

The first paragraph of the “AAC&U Statement on Liberal Learning,” 1998 (the complete document is at

This image is from a document in the Feb. 9-10, 2004 Board of Trustees Meeting Packet. It is part of what the Academic Affairs Committee presented to the full Board for approval of the recent Mission changes. The fact that the back of the AAC&U document has the BOT approved version signifies a relationship between what the AAC&U advocates for and what the Board approved.

     Regardless, the phrase “liberal education” in the context of IWU curricular offerings predates all of this. Skimming backwards from 1989 in the printed catalogs, I find the mission statement using the phrase going back to the 1960s (where I stopped looking).
     I conducted a search of our old catalogs (1851-1954 are freely available online) and the first use of the phrase “liberal education” is in regards to offerings listed by the Women’s Education Association in 1879-80 catalog (p. 50). The next area of IWU to use the phrase is the School of Music in the 1891 catalog (p. 62). Our Home Economics program used it in 1916 (p. 70) and the first use in describing the University as a whole is in 1920 (p 25).
So if the question is how long have we embraced the phrase “liberal education” I’d say it’s been a good, long, time!
1920 Type of Institution statement

1920 Course Catalog, p. 25 (click to enlarge)

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