While expanding its scope and programs, Lee has maintained its core purpose – providing liberal arts and professional education, as evidenced through its Mission Statement: Lee University is a Christian institution which offers liberal arts and professional education on both the baccalaureate and master’s levels. The mission provides a foundation for Lee’s emphasis on teaching excellence, the residential campus experience, a commitment to diversity, and access for a wide range of students. Lee seeks to nurture the individual student holistically, and faculty and staff involvement with students in and out of the classroom is a priority. As the Mission Statement continues: The foundational purpose of all educational programs is to develop within the students knowledge, appreciation, understanding, ability and skills which will prepare them for responsible Christian living in the modern world. Lee has been recognized in the past by the Templeton Foundation for its leadership in the area of preparing students for responsible living, and the campus environment is one of student growth and enhancement. Recent comparison data from the 2003 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) indicate that Lee is succeeding in providing a supportive and enriching college experience. Compared to the 336 schools that participated in the 2003 NSSE nationally, Lee ranked within the 90th and 100th percentile range in the “Supportive Campus Environment” benchmark. In the benchmark area of “Enriching Educational Experiences,” Lee students reported the highest score of all participating Baccalaureate-General institutions.
As part of its broader mission of preparing students for responsible living, Lee takes seriously the task of preparing students for global interdependence, fostering a respect for diversity and encouraging students to serve others. These three aspects of the Lee University mission have taken on an increased significance in recent years.
As evidence of its commitment to preparing students for global interdependence, Lee University revised its core curriculum in 1998 to include a required seminar course on cross-cultural issues along with participation in an extended, off-campus, cross-cultural experience. As part of its Global Perspectives program, Lee has established 25 cross-cultural study experiences, 21 of them international, and is ranked among the top twenty bachelor’s level institutions for students studying abroad (The Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov. 2000). With funding from the U.S. Department of Education, Lee began a Latin American Studies Program and minor in the fall of 2002. In addition to traveling abroad, Lee includes domestic study opportunities for students to experience different cultures within the U.S. and to encounter directly the serious needs in our society. For example, psychology and counseling students travel to Gallup, New Mexico, each year to work with Navajo children in an after-school program, and a faculty member in the School of Religion leads a group of students to the L.A. Dream Center in Los Angeles to work and serve in a disadvantaged, urban setting.
While developing the Global Perspectives program, Lee also has reenergized its commitment to racial and ethnic diversity on campus. As stated in its Institutional Goals, “Lee University seeks to increase the diversity of the faculty and student body, address the unique needs of a diverse campus population, and encourage academic inquiry into minority concerns.” As a result of a focused effort to increase campus diversity, the percentage of students who are members of U.S. minority groups has increased from 3.6% in 1997 to 12% in fall 2008. This percentage does not include the more than 250 international students at Lee.
The third area of focus is Lee’s emphasis on service. Stemming from its religious heritage, the campus culture of Lee University always has valued acts of service to humankind. In fall 2003, Lee launched a new service learning initiative that introduces students to a variety of service opportunities and prepares them to make a profound and lasting difference in their world. The Leonard Center oversees this comprehensive program that is required for all students and includes extensive community service, a course on the biblical and theological foundations of benevolence, and guided student reflection on the service experiences.
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