an exercise in exploring complexity and tension


Tension between “pure scholarship” and vocational preparation.

Tension between student preparation for the 21st Century, cost, applicable student experiences, transferable knowledge, and cost.

The Healthcare Industry in the US is devouring everything, and is unsustainable.

We discussed the ongoing tension between some students wanting narrow “career skills” versus the university’s desire to teach broader learning skills and mindsets (like problem solving, team work, etc)

The shortage of funding is juxtaposed with the mission to provide an excellent and well-rounded relevant education. If we are unable to inspire NH natives to remain in the state to put their education into practice, we will continue a sad trend that is draining our state of its youthful energy, innovation, and spirit.

The mission of transformative education is in tension with the incredible amount of daily work that is not focused around teaching!

#1, Mission: One mission statement discusses engagement with the White Mountain community, the other notes a mission to expose students to different perspectives. Most of our students are either from the area, or at the very least very familiar with the area.

#2: The local community does have a vested interest in the success of the university, though since many of these benefits are indirect the community doesn’t always perceive them. In addition, we have to acknowledge that having a university, while a net benefit, does impose some costs on the local community that can generate unfriendly attitudes.

#3: Daily work: no inherent tensions, except that the university does have limited resources.

#4: Plymouth State does get a fairly small % of its budget from the State of New Hampshire, requiring us to rely more heavily on student tuition and fees. Given that college applicants are increasingly (and wisely) cost conscious, this harmful to PSU’s ability to recruit the out-of-state students. Obviously bad for the university, and bad in the classroom since the interaction of in- and out- of state students does promote the exchange of different viewpoints and experiences.

Conflict/tension between our mission (to serve the local community and the north country of NH) and our context (need to search for students out of state to combat decreasing enrollment and local demographics of an aging and decreasing population). There is also a tension within our mission, of striving to prepare students for a global economy while also desiring to be locally-focused. Are we preparing students for what is (the actual state of the local or NH economy) or what could be (to change that economy by creating different and new types of jobs and opportunities).

Tension between the need to do innovative work that encourages independent, critical thinkers and the lack of funding and resources available.

Context – There is a complexity in that our community has enlarged and as we provide more opportunities in a larger region we face the possibility of losing students to a greater area as opposed to the earlier years with a more insulated population.