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What I'm Reading, June 6

Monday, June 6, 2016

In this edition of "What I'm Reading," I discuss articles that examine the fate of regional universities, how first-generation faculty can help first-generation students, the value of grit, and the dubious state of college marketing.

“Where Does the Regional State University Go From Here?”

This article in The Chronicle of Higher Education reminds me how serendipitous RMU's reclassification as a doctoral-granting national research university really is. While anchoring ourselves firmly in a region marked by rapid growth in medicine, technology, education, sports, and energy, we have the sports and are developing the research portfolio to leverage our new national classification. 

“Navigating Campus Together” 

RMU’s vice president for enrollment management, Wendy Beckemeyer, shared this article (from The Atlantic) about how college faculty who were first-generation students can guide and mentor today’s first-generation students. This is a powerful reminder of how challenging it can be for first-generation students to navigate life at a college or university, and how inspiring it can be for them to see in their professors where the road can take them.

Putting Grit in its Place

New York Times columnist David Brooks riffs on the work of University of Pennsylvania researcher Angela Duckworth, who has become famous for examining the role of grit in determining individual success. (I’m eager to read her new book, Grit.) Brooks praises Duckworth for arguing that true success comes when perseverance is married to moral purpose: We don’t succeed at things we don’t care about it and that we don’t believe serve a greater good. That is at the heart of RMU’s commitment to our students, that their experience here will help them achieve professional success and personal well-being. You can do well, and do good.  

“Your Future Starts Here. Or Here. Or Here.” 

Inside Higher Ed surveys the landscape of higher education marketing and finds nothing new under the sun – our branding, from brochures to web sites, logos to videos, all look the same, and they are all riddled with clichés. The real problem, as one of the commenters on this article notes, is that colleges and universities fail to differentiate themselves in a meaningful way from their competitors. After all, “brand” is not about the fonts or colors you use on your web site. It’s about the experience you offer, the results you promise, and whether your customers believe you actually deliver those results.  Institutions that don’t have market distinctiveness will not survive. It’s as simple as that.