By STEVEN NALLEY
Mississippi University for Women may not be exclusively for women anymore, but MUW president Jim Borsig said that does not mean the university’s name is changing anytime soon.
The idea of changing MUW’s name has come up continually, Borsig said, ever since he interviewed for MUW’s top position, and he has never wished to dodge the issue. He believes dialogue is healthy when dealing with such issues, but a recent campus dialogue made it clear that at least one variation on the existing MUW name has broad support.
“After everything was said and done, it is so clear to us (that) it doesn’t matter what our name is; we are known as ‘The W,’” Borsig said. “This came from focus groups using our current students, saying, ‘This is how we refer to the university.’ ‘The W’ has got to be how we talk about ourselves. That is clearly a unifying element of marketing the university.”
MUW announced results Monday from six campus dialogue sessions held during the fall semester, where topics such as MUW’s name were discussed to evaluate the university’s brand and market that brand to prospective students.
Nearly 160 MUW stakeholders, including faculty, staff, students, alumni and community representatives, convened for the six interactive sessions held by idgroup, a branding and communications firm based in Pensacola, Fla. Borsig said he discovered idgroup through its senior creative director, Gail Spruill Shaw, who was Alumni of the Year when she graduated from MUW in 1994.
“She understood the institution,” Borsig said. “I had been through (idgroup’s) process. It was research-based, so it had an academic validity to it. (The six sessions) were structured to help identify core beliefs (and) core values. This step is pre-strategic planning.”
Mona Amodeo, idgroup president, gave the Monday report, which she said identifies seven specific areas for MUW to market. She said MUW’s greatest strength is a unique experience for students, faculty and staff that differentiates it from other schools.
“MUW provides a personalized, intimate, quality four-year public education experience. This is very different from larger ... four-year institutions or community colleges,” Amodeo said. “You’ll see The W be more aggressive in telling its story, as well as creating a consistent visual image that reflects the core identity of the institution and connects to the target markets. They should stand out and stand for who they are. They should give attention to aligning ‘The W experience’ with external communications.”
Formal strategic planning from idgroup’s findings is yet to come, Borsig said, but MUW’s marketing arm is already making use of these findings. The effects on MUW’s student recruitment materials will be immediate, he said, and a new MUW website is currently under development.
“I think, over the next few months, we will begin to see this in student materials. It will take some time to roll through everything we do,” Borsig said. “The focus of everything we’re doing in this arena is about marketing the university to prospective students.”
One of the key slogans that Borsig said came out of the sessions was the idea that MUW’s past and present form “One Long Blue Line.” The “Long Blue Line” is a traditional name for MUW’s alumni base, but Borsig said the new variation places a new emphasis on current and prospective students and on the idea that current students, like their predecessors, receive an education as worthwhile as any in the nation.
“It’s not so much about our alumni as it is about the tradition our alumni have built,” Borsig said. “In every decade, we have had graduates who have been successful and made a difference in every field.”
One of MUW’s most famous alumni, Pulitzer Prize winner Eudora Welty, inspired another slogan. Welty once said, “All serious daring starts from within,” and Amodeo said this led to the slogan “To Dare. To Dream. To Achieve.”
“This phrase captures the core essence and the spirit of the institution,” Amodeo said. “It defines the central experience of those who pass through the W. It is also a call to action.”