Western participating in pilot marketing project with AASCU, SAGE Communications

Western Washington University is proud to be a member of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), an organization made up of more than 400 public colleges, universities, and systems across the nation.

SCU’s are categorized as public institutions of higher learning that are smaller than a state’s land-grant or research universities but larger and more selective than community colleges. Western, like all SCUs, shares a learning- and teaching-centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations and a dedication to research and creativity that advances Washington’s economic progress and cultural development.

For the past year, Western has been taking part in an AASCU pilot program with four other peer institutions across the country: Henderson State University, Morgan State University, University of Central Oklahoma, and Northern Kentucky University. The program was undertaken to try and understand the common concepts that all SCUs share and how those concepts could be brought forward in universal messaging that each institution could use to highlight its strengths.

Working together with SAGE Communications in Washington, D.C., and the AASCU national office, each of the pilot program’s participating universities underwent an audit of its communication language: how do Western and its peers communicate to its many audiences, across every platform, from the web to print collateral to internal media such as Western Today?

Through this analysis, commonalities began to emerge, and these shared points provided the pilot program with its new framework and central theme. For example, Western and its peers foster a value system centered around the concept of “Opportunities for All;” that SCUs are the higher education choice that creates brighter futures for all of the region’s students, and thus becomes the economic, cultural and social drivers for their states.

The analysis also revealed three core values that SCUs share and can utilize in their messaging frameworks: Quality, Accessibility, and Responsibility.

High Quality: Western embraces a student-centered focus that emphasizes learning and teaching as a core institutional belief. Western students are taught and mentored by a faculty of scholars and are exposed to a full range of educational opportunities in smaller class sizes. Western supports a broad range of different learning styles and opportunities – from its Honors Program to hands-on applied research with its faculty, both in the lab and out in the field.

Accessibility: As a state university, Western provides a viable, high quality educational experience to a diverse cross-section of the region’s residents, including nontraditional students or groups that have historically been underrepresented in higher education. Western strives to foster campus diversity, build inclusiveness, and enable partnerships to succeed. For more information on these efforts, go to http://www.wwu.edu/diversity.

Responsibility: SCUs like Western create the skilled workforce to support the state’s business and needs while advancing economic progress and cultural development. As a place of public purpose, Western prepares its students for a life of leadership and service and enhances their abilities to attain financial independence after graduation. Western, like its peer SCUs, is a smart investment, offering a high quality, accessible and affordable choice to earning a four-year baccalaureate degree, and shares the mission of its peers to make higher education available to anyone who is willing to work hard in order to be successful.

Part of Western’s set of deliverables for the project have included a new SCU web page and link from the WWU home page (http://www.wwu.edu/univrelations/aascu.shtml), a “Proud to be an SCU” narrative inside the University’s legislative briefing guide, a column by President Shepard inside AASCU’s magazine and an op-ed in the Bellingham Herald.

As the first phase of the pilot project concludes, an initial assessment shows it has been helpful in determining how Western’s unique position and role within Washington state can best be brought forward in its messaging and through its brand.

This spring, more institutions were added to the project for its next phase. Western will continue to utilize “Opportunities for All” in its outreach and refine its messaging as the project draws further conclusions about how to leverage the strengths of each SCU.

Questions about the AASCU pilot project or its messaging and goals? Contact John Thompson in Western’s Office of Communications and Marketing at 650-4502 or john.thompson@wwu.edu.