A Center Focused on the Third Mission


The role of a college is not limited to teaching and research but includes a third mission: to engage with society.  To address increasing societal and economic challenges, colleges should be refocusing efforts to link teaching and research to the third mission.  The ‘third mission’ is not just a catchy phrase, but is of increasing importance to establish connections between student experiences at college and the communities beyond the classroom walls.  However, this takes a united effort of all departments to join together for one mission. A first step would include campus training on the entrepreneurial mindset as those with an entrepreneurial mindset are often drawn to opportunities, innovation, and new value creation.  We need all departments to see that they have a role with their entrepreneurial mindset to shape the future of our college.  A center requires vision, capital, personnel, and space to cultivate well.

Ideas from Other Institutions

Third Mission of the University of Vienna

The University of Vienna has positioned themselves to use their knowledge from research and teaching to fulfill their third mission in society.  It is a shared agenda of all parts of the university.  The third mission project is implemented in coordination with research and academic teaching, with the aim of further strengthening the essential pillars of the university.  https://thirdmission.univie.ac.at/en/

Babson Academy 

Babson College is currently ranked No. 2 among the Most Transformative Colleges by Money Magazine.  Babson is globally recognized for their one-of-a kind entrepreneurial thought and action program.  Babson trains educators in thinking entrepreneurially, no matter their subject area.
“We are working in an industry where tradition is holding us down, while our competition is speeding up…we should not be reacting to the future; we should be creating the future.  We play defense when we should be playing offense.” (Heidi Neck, Academic Director)  http://www.babson.edu/academics/babson-academy/?_ga=2.27654716.1834205197.1556486914-1707143201.1556486914

Orange City Community

The community of Orange City has also set highly entrepreneurial goals and seeks a partnership with the college.  Through this partnership, there are opportunities with government and business project-based learning and also additional funding and shared resources. The oc21 foundation continues to seek innovative endeavors to benefit our community and students.  A local angel investor group has also been created to help fund innovative ideas with funds available to invest in our student’s ideas today!  

Suggestions for Northwestern

Create a center on campus to lead the effort to increase collaboration and exchange with society. The third mission has three dimensions: social engagement, an entrepreneurial focus, and an innovative emphasis.  A center can identify and promote relevant activities, making them visible and interconnected, and develop quality assurance measures of assessment.  

A center should be implemented in coordination with research and teaching, with the aim of further strengthening these essential pillars of the college.  Furthermore, Brandt et al. (2018) found that implementations of third mission activities helped improve the visibility of the institution.  The more visible the college and the students can be within communities and society as a whole, the more win-wins for enrollment, job placement, internships, volunteerism, and more.  

The center would be responsible for third mission activities of the college that are based on research and innovation, that promote networking, that are relevant to society and/or economy, and are sustainable and future-oriented.  Some of the benefits to creating a center include the following:

  • Extended networking with members of society and outside funders
  • Extended cooperation with public,  private, and non-profit organizations
  • Establishment of new and cross disciplinary projects in direct response to economic and social needs
  • Engagement of students through hands-on experiential learning 
  • Integration of service learning in research and teaching
  • Improving the professional skill profile of our students such as leadership skills
  • Increasing society’s appreciation of the unique features of the college

Furthermore, Northwestern is focused upon student success and Christ-centered work for the common good. Based on research done by Dr. Husbands, our prospective students are seeking a college where they can discover who they are, be encouraged in spiritual growth, and learn how to make a difference in the world.  A center can be focused on reaching everything that our target market seeks. A center would also help with enhancing NWC students’ post-college readiness. In research from NSSE surveys given to freshman and seniors, NWC students were found to have a confidence, leadership, and entrepreneurial experience/mindset deficit. 

Strategic Plan

Goal 1.3 – Advance the quality and reputation of the academic programIncrease opportunity and resources for faculty-student collaborative research and scholarship.

Goal 1.4 – Advance the quality and reputation of the academic program Raise the reputation of Northwestern as a leader in Christian thought, scholarship, practice, and artistic expression.

Goal 2.1 – Prepare students for meaningful work and flourishing livesEstablish a center for meaningful work where students are equipped for navigating the journey from college to calling.

“The endgame is quite clear…the issue is not merely about survival but rather about how to best position our institution to ensure that it provides students with exceptional learning and developmental opportunities that prepare them to achieve their goals and dreams.”

Jon McGee, Breakpoint

Additional Resources


Vanessa Ratten, (2017) “Entrepreneurial universities: the role of communities, people and places”, Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, Vol. 11 Issue: 03, pp.310-315, https://doi.org/10.1108/JEC-03-2017-0021

Carla MascarenhasCarla Susana MarquesAnderson Rei GalvãoGina Santos, (2017) “Entrepreneurial university: towards a better understanding of past trends and future directions”, Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, Vol. 11 Issue: 03, pp.316-338, https://doi.org/10.1108/JEC-02-2017-0019

Arthur RubensFrancesca SpigarelliAlessio CavicchiChiara Rinaldi, (2017) “Universities’ third mission and the entrepreneurial university and the challenges they bring to higher education institutions”, Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, Vol. 11 Issue: 03, pp.354-372, https://doi.org/10.1108/JEC-01-2017-0006

Solomon A. DAVID.  https://third-mission.org/files/publications2018/Third_mission_and_university_ranking_Solomon_A._David.pdf

Brandt, L., Schober, B., Schultes, M., Somoza, V., & Spiel, C. (2018). Supporting Third Mission activities at Universities: Deans’ opinions and recommendations. Zeitschrift Für Hochschulentwicklung, 13(2), 21-40. doi:10.3217/zfhe-13-02/02

EntryTags: third mission, entrepreneurship, center, entrepreneurial, community, service, innovation

Structural Approaches to Mark:institution, resource, teaching, scholarship