Shaping Our Future

Frequently Asked Questions about Recognition and The Research Timeline

One of the goals in Shaping Our Future: The Strategic Plan for Southwestern University 2010-2020 focuses on "Building Far-Reaching Visibility and Recognition." In the increasingly competitive recruitment environment of higher education, strong and widespread recognition is essential.

While Southwestern has made headway in enhancing awareness of its reputation, incidents of mistaken identity still occur. Over the years, alumni and others have expressed their frustration when employers, high school and graduate school counselors, or the media are either completely unfamiliar with Southwestern or mistake it for another institution.

Why are we asking the question about the name, Southwestern University?

We, who know and love Southwestern, are familiar with its reputation, but, how it is perceived by those who are unfamiliar with Southwestern?

Consider…

  • When you introduce yourself as being connected to Southwestern University, what questions are you typically asked?
  • As a student, what was the reaction when you were asked, "Where do you attend college?"
  • Now that you have been away from the University for a period of time, what is the response of others when you tell them you attended Southwestern?
  • How do you describe what distinguishes your educational experience to someone who is unfamiliar with the University?

Why now?

Excerpted from Shaping Our Future: The Strategic Plan for Southwestern University 2010-2020.

One aspect of building greater visibility for Southwestern is name recognition. Those who know us well recognize Southwestern as an exceptional undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution. However, the assumption is too often made; particularly by those outside of Texas, who are not familiar with us, that, "Southwestern University" is a regional public institution. While not an insurmountable factor, the name of a university or college should be a significant positive factor in its visibility. A name that maximizes the potential of the institution helps build recognition for the scholarship offered by the school's rigorous academic environment, helps recruit faculty and students (and their parents), attracts funding, and opens doors for students and alumni. It is not in the best interest of Southwestern for our students, faculty, staff, or alumni to find themselves in a position to have to explain the University's name - even while they are proud of their Southwestern degree and what it represents. As Southwestern engages in current planning for growth, the timing may be right to obtain valid market research about the University's name and to use that research for strategic decision-making.

As directed by the new strategic plan, before the University initiates a broad-based visibility effort, brand research will be conducted to better answer questions, such as:

  • In what ways does the name - Southwestern University - support and reinforce the liberal arts experience that the University provides? In what ways does it hinder those efforts?
  • Is the name - Southwestern University - broadly recognized? Regionally? Nationally? What associations does it prompt?
  • In what ways is the name - Southwestern University - an asset? In what ways might it be a detriment?

What types of concerns have been expressed related to Southwestern's recognition?

Over the years, alumni and others have expressed their frustration when potential employers, high school and/or graduate school admission counselors, the general public or the media are either completely unfamiliar with the type and quality of education that defines Southwestern or mistake it for another institution. Faculty and student accounts relate to the lack of awareness of Southwestern or to uncertainty regarding its educational experience as they present at national conferences or other scholarly meetings.

What previous research has been conducted?

Southwestern conducted targeted market research in 2006 with prospective students, alumni and other key University stakeholders with the focus of the research on general perceptions of Southwestern. These research findings are critical in guiding the messages we communicate to prospective students and their families. Key research findings shared 57 recommendations including an overhaul of the University's website, as well as strategic integrated messaging focused on affordability, academic strength, value (outcomes) and campus beauty/vibrancy.

1998 research related to name and positioning reported, "Southwestern is an attractive name for an institution, but it lends itself to great confusion with other institutions with similar names." No recommendations were made.

What is the current research process?

The Strategic Plan put forward by the Commission on Planning and Action and adopted by the Board of Trustees in March, 2010 includes a recommendation to conduct research surrounding the University's name. In accordance with this recommendation, the University retained the Chicago firm of Lipman Hearne to oversee the research effort. Lipman Hearne specializes in marketing and communications exclusively within the nonprofit sector, especially higher education. Through e-mail, alumni and students, will be asked to participate in an online survey. Representative parents and prospective students will also be asked to participate.

The Research Task Force comprised of alumni, faculty, staff, a student, and members of the University's Board of Trustees and Board of Visitors will evaluate the research and make a recommendation to the University's Senior Staff, who will make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees for action.

How will the research be funded?

A grant from the Amon Carter Foundation and gifts from other donors are funding the research.

What is the timeline for the research and how will the findings be shared?

This process will be transparent and the research findings will be shared with all stakeholders through the University's website for Shaping Our Future: The Strategic Plan for Southwestern University 2010-2020.

Timeline

August 2010
16/17 Lipman Hearne "intake" through campus interviews
19 President Schrum announces research will commence
19 Shaping Our Future website launches - the reporting vehicle for the research process
26 E-announcement to Alumni
30 Lipman Hearne to provide summary of campus visit
September 2010
15 Survey drafts to Southwestern for review by Research Task Force
24 Survey distribution logistics finalized
Last Week Electronic Surveys to alumni and current students launch; Current and prospective parent focus groups take place in Houston
October 2010
Survey reminders (2)
Data evaluation
November 2010
6 Homecoming Session
30 Lipman Hearne presents final report to Research Task Force
December 2010
1 Research Task Force presents recommendation to Southwestern's Senior Staff
January 2011
28 Senior Staff presents recommendation to Southwestern's Board of Trustees for action

Informed by the research findings, when will a national visibility initiative begin?

As soon as external funding through gifts and grants is obtained.

Under what circumstances might a new name be considered?

The Board of Trustees, in keeping with Shaping Our Future: The Strategic Plan for Southwestern University 2010-2020, will evaluate the research findings before making any branding or name decisions. Therefore, participation in the research survey by alumni, students, parents, and prospective students will be instrumental in shaping the research findings.

Who is serving on the Research Task Force?

President Schrum is currently appointing campus representatives. Appointed representatives include:

  • Tom Forbes '71, Member, Southwestern's Board of Trustees; Partner, Longbow Partners LLP
  • Glada Munt, Associate Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics
  • Justin Gould '98, Director of Gift and Estate Planning
  • Georgianne Hewett '90, Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations
  • Ann Cater Ramsey '67 and Russell Ramsey '66, Partner, Ramsey & Murray, P.C.
  • Scott Sandoval '91, Director of Admission Communication and Senior Associate Director of Admission
  • Steve Kamrath, Senior Preventive Maintenance Mechanic (Staff Council Representative)
  • John Kiltz, Member, Southwestern's Board of Visitors; Partner, Stonelake Capital Partners
  • Sarah Woolley '11, Student Congress President
  • Dirk Early, Professor of Economics; Associate Dean of the Brown College of Arts & Sciences
  • Elisabeth Piedmont-Marton, Associate Professor of English; Director of the Deborah S. Ellis Writing Center; Paideia Professor
  • Desi Roybal, Associate Professor of Theatre; Resident Scenic Designer; Faculty Chair of the Sarofim School of Fine Arts; Paideia Professor
  • Max Taub, Associate Professor and Chair of the Biology Department

Ex officio:

  • Jake B. Schrum '68, President
  • Rick McKelvey, Vice President for Institutional Advancement
  • Cindy Locke, Associate Vice President for University Relations

Who served on the Commission on Planning and Action to develop Shaping Our Future: The Strategic Plan for Southwestern 2010-2020?


  • Jake B. Schrum '68, President and Chair
  • James W. Hunt, Provost and Dean of the Faculty
  • Gerald D. Brody, V.P. Student Life
  • Richard L. Anderson, V.P. Fiscal Affairs
  • Paul Gaffney, Dean of The Sarofim School of Fine Arts
  • Dirk Early, Associate Dean of The Brown College of Arts & Sciences
  • Kimele Carter, Staff Representative
  • Arden Baxter, Staff Representative
  • David Asbury, Faculty Representative
  • David Gaines, Faculty Representative
  • Suzanne Buchele, Faculty Representative
  • Fay Guarraci, Faculty Representative
  • Leah Jones '11, Student Congress Representative
  • Matt Hanson '11, Student Congress Representative
  • Robert W. Karr '71, Chair, Trustee Strategic Plan Committee
  • W. Joseph King '93, Executive Director of NITLE, Vice President for Innovation at Southwestern
  • Steve A. Raben '63, President, Association of Southwestern University Alumni
  • Merriman Morton '63, Chair, Board of Trustees, ex officio
  • Ronald L. Swain, Administrative liaison
  • Elaine Kuttner, Planning Consultant and Principal, Cambridge Concord Associates

How can I access the Strategic Plan?

View the full report at www.southwestern.edu/plan