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Harrison Discusses Strategic Planning and Branding
President Walter Harrison speaks at Wednesday's Faculty/Staff Kickoff. On the podium is the University's new "wordmark," part of the new branding and marketing initiative.
President Walter Harrison kicked off the new academic year Wednesday with updates on two initiatives that will “define the future of our University” – strategic planning and branding and marketing.
“I believe this work holds the key to the future of the University, and therefore it demands all of our attention and best thinking,” President Harrison said.
Harrison made his remarks during the fall semester Faculty/Staff Kickoff in Gengras Student Union. The annual Kickoff marking the start of the new academic year also featured the presentation of awards recognizing outstanding faculty and staff. Check UNotes on Friday for coverage of the faculty and staff awards.
Read the full text of President Harrison’s speech.
See President Harrison’s entire speech on video.
The University began working on the strategic planning initiative this summer, with help from the consulting firm, the Napa Group.
“We are launching what we hope will be an intensive four-month effort to collect your perspectives on the future of the University and organize teams to describe and analyze those areas we should concentrate on for the next five years,” Harrison said. More than 100 faculty and staff members have already taken part in listening and visioning sessions, and there will be a variety of opportunities this fall for everyone who would like to participate.
It is important to undertake strategic planning now for two reasons, Harrison said. First, the University is in a very solid position, having achieved a budget surplus for the 16th straight fiscal year. Secondly, this is a time of great uncertainty for all of higher education, Harrison said. Among the many challenges facing institutions of higher education are a decline in the college-age population; greater financial aid needs among students; intense pressure to minimize increases in tuition and fees; and the increasing popularity of online learning.
Foundation of the Future Update
The strategic plan will build on a number of other projects that the University has conducted in recent years, including a facilities master plan, a comprehensive market research initiative, a faculty compensation study, and Foundation of the Future, an initiative aimed at prioritizing academic and administrative programs in order to determine where the University should focus its resources.
President Harrison said Wednesday that a final report on Foundation of the Future will be issued within the next few weeks. The Foundation of the Future initiative will result in $3.5 to $4 million in savings over the next five years, Harrison said.
“Our intent is to reinvest these savings in high priority areas beginning this fall,” Harrison said. The University will begin to invest in the faculty compensation plan this year, devoting $300,000 in Foundation of the Future savings to salary increases for those faculty members who are farthest away from salary targets.
Branding and Marketing
Wednesday’s Faculty/Staff Kickoff marked the official launch of a branding and marketing initiative that has been two years in the making. The project began with a market research study conducted by the nationally recognized firm of Simpson Scarborough. The University then retained another national leader, the Philadelphia-based agency 160 over 90, to develop a branding initiative based on the findings of the market research study.
The new brand – a visualization of the University’s personality – was on display Wednesday on the cover of the Kickoff program, on the podium, on video monitors, and even at the Dining Services tent where refreshments were served after the Kickoff.
“Soon you will begin to see banners all over campus, T-shirts that each member of the entering class of 2017 will receive, and a bit later on a renovation of Bates House and a re-dressing of the Sports Center,” Harrison said. “In the future you will see a new look to our website, new admissions materials, more concentration on electronic communications (especially through social media), and new approaches to campus tours and on-campus recruiting efforts.”
The branding effort will focus primarily on three areas: undergraduate recruiting, fundraising, and athletics and other events where the University can attract more visitors and raise its visibility and reputation, Harrison said.