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College Brand

As we all know but sometimes hate to admit, colleges and universities must market themselves to prospective students in order to fill classes and educate the public about their mission.  Even the most selective institutions do this, and it’s not easy.  For how can an advertisement, viewbook, or video capture the essence of a college, or represent the identities of the students who go there?

But click on the link below, and check out the video that MIT produced.  It’s pretty remarkable, as both a marketing tool and portrait of the passions and aspiration that bring some students to college.   Thanks to Xander Manshel for sharing this with me.

Here it is: The Human Factor.

As always, comments welcome.

Earlier this year I wrote about how students organizations could raise funds by connecting with their alumni base (see “Pumping Up the Volume on Student Orgs” below) and soliciting donations. Well, I am happy to say that the sailing club is now moving forward with their “Rock the Boat” campaign and, as the CAMPUS reports in its 2/21 issue (“Sailing Charts New Fundraising Course”), it has already raised close to $30K. But the story doesn’t end here. As Sailing Club Commondore Chandler Koglmeier ’09 noted in a recent email, the club’s efforts have been picked up by the Chronicle of Higher Education in a online post, entitled “All Hands on Deck at Middlebury College.” Chandler sees all this as a great example of how online/offline communication can work together—in this case to strengthen student life on campus.

So if I can be permitted yet another nautical metaphor (or two) . . . I’d like to encourage other student orgs to trim their sails, find their sea legs, and prepare to come about—and follow the sailing club’s example.

Needless to say, I am not a sailor.

One of the high points of my week is the radio show that I host on WRMC on Friday afternoons (3:30 to 5:00 pm if you are interested). The show is called “68 Degrees and Holding”—named after an effort we made a couple of years ago to reduce the temperature in the dorms—and this year, I’ve been co-hosting the show with Matt Jennings, the editor of Middlebury Magazine. It’s a lot of fun, and every time we spin a disc (all rock and pop music, spanning the decades), I am reminded of what a tremendous resource WRMC is. Granted, Matt and I are interlopers—posing as students—so it might be a little weird for me to be booming the virtues of independent college radio (I also serve as the faculty advisor for the station), but it seems to me that WRMC offers a model for student organizations. The students are free to design the programming, operate the station, and share their musical interests and commentary with the world—or at least the Champlain Valley (though you can listen on the internet). During our show, we share space with the creators of the Middlebury Radio Theatre of Thrills and Suspense—ten students sitting in a separate studio pre-recording their show for the week. We don’t hear them and they usually don’t hear us (we try to keep the music down in the studio). We just look at them through the glass window, and maybe they glance at us. But it’s good—all good—and it’s just another day at WRMC.

What’s striking about WRMC is the amount of freedom that students have to follow their passions and interests. I have limited on-the-ground exposure to other student organizations, but know that several groups have a long tradition at Middlebury of fostering student independence and creativity. The Middlebury Mountain Club, which was founded in 1931, is the oldest and, apparently, the largest student organization on campus. The acapella singing groups—for instance, the Dissipated 8 and the Mischords—have also been around for a while and enjoy great support on campus. The D8 just celebrated their 55th anniversary this fall, while the Mischords are coming up on their 45th.

Linking current students to the history of these organizations—and their alumni—is an effective way of deepening students’ awareness of what they can accomplish on this campus and beyond. It might also be a way-by fund-raising-of enhancing the resources available to students, The majority of student orgs depend on funding from the Student Activities Fee, which is funneled to them through the SGA finance committee. However, if student orgs were encouraged to connect to their alumni bases, build affinity groups, and raise money, there could be even greater options for students. Yale, Harvard, and other Ivy League schools are renowned for their heavy-weight, heavily-endowed student organizations (Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Club is just one example). Why not right here in the Champlain Valley?

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