by Jackson Bicknell, staff writer
The reality of the college is we are a work in progress. The campus is full of unfinished projects and perhaps even some unsolved situations, but after being at the college for a year I realize that “work in progress” is a theme that is so Wilson to the core and is what makes this place special. Finding work that is right for you, selecting the right major and finding service that is fulfilling isn’t just going to happen, and might not even happen after some serious soul searching. Striving for fulfillment is a work in progress. The Wilsonite and the college may not be so different. How can this “work in progress” essence of the College be expressed to the community outside Wilson to which we advertise?
A project thought to be long overdue by president Steve Solnick and agreed upon by the Board of Trustees is the reassessment of how the school markets itself to the public. The college will be hiring an external marketing and advertising team to come to campus and observe the college’s strengths and weaknesses in hopes of creating a more honest portrayal of what Warren Wilson College is as an institution.
Initially the search began with 22 firms. Seventeen proposals were submitted and the list has been narrowed down to three companies that will be coming to campus within the next two weeks. Dawn Medley, Vice President for Enrollment and Marketing, is in charge of facilitating the college’s marketing facelift.
“There is a huge level of competition in higher education for students and for foundational support,” Medley said. “We need to have a clear and thoughtful presentation of an institution.”
There are several reasons why this is important. Firstly, when talking to prospective students, the college needs to be able to tell them who the school truly is in order to provide a good match.
“We will look at our family publications, our website, how we communicate with alumni and parents,” says Medley, “Perspectives are just one part.”
The old college slogan, “We’re not for everyone… but then, maybe you’re not everyone,” still appears on the website, but has not been in effect for a year and a half. A project in the works.
“I think we do a good job of portraying who we aren’t, but need to focus more on who we are as a college,” said Medley.
The second word in the college’s slogan is negative. Generally, advertisements avoid using negative language in marketing campaigns to steer the audience away from thinking pessimistically. The word “not” emphasizes Medley’s point that focus should be taken off of what we aren’t and more of an emphasis placed on who we are as a college.
As I sit and think about what sets Wilson apart from other colleges, I gaze around at my fellow melting students suffering from a broken air conditioner in the sweltering library. I cannot help but think that a glorious and sweaty grime is at the core of Wilson. I am sure “grunge” doesn’t fit well into a brochure, but I believe it to be a more encompassing word of the student population rather than being described as “not like everyone else.”
It is no secret that the college campus is in a constant state of repair. Just look around. If something breaks, you might have to wait for a student to finish their homework before it gets done or for HVAC to order a part off line before it can be replaced.
My dorm has not had hot water for about five days now. I haven’t bothered showering. This is Wilson. I cannot walk to and from the cafeteria without inhaling second-hand smoke from Landscapers waiting for a ride. This is Wilson. Often my fellow dorm mates must climb through a window because the card reader on the only two entrances periodically goes out of commission for weeks. This is Wilson.
The Marketing teams will be visiting campus within the next two weeks. They will be delivering a presentation at a community meeting that the entire student body is invited to. Students, faculty and staff will be encouraged to provide feedback on each team. They will be assessed on how well they understand Wilson, communicate with the school, and whether or not they would be a good fit to help market the College. “We will make a decision based off of that feedback,” says Medley “We want everyone to get a chance to meet the companies we are going to enter into a partnership with.”
I worry that an external group unaffiliated with the school won’t understand the work-in-progress allure of the college. It’s the kind of beauty that can only be understood after living, working and breathing in the grime. Once you have accomplished this, and not everyone does, fainting in the library from a broken air conditioner does not seem so bad. “We want someone to come in from the outside and look at the school through an objective eye…someone who isn’t in love,” said Medley.
We are all workers, students and people trying to balance academics with social lives and work contracts. There is a lot that has to get done in a given day at the college. Part of being a Wilsonite is understanding the uniqueness of everyone’s schedules and that everyone is trying to reach some sort of equilibrium between work, play and academics. Once a project is almost accomplished, another begins. Wilson’s projects won’t end, because we will never stop working and looking for innovative ways to improve. In a school primarily run by students, understanding this balance is essential for students to feel sympathetic regarding situations like no hot water or an 80 degree library.