Bare Bones: Re-branding Springfield College the Right Way

Tyler Leahy
Opinions Editor

 

 

 

 

leahyI spent close to an entire semester pondering Springfield College’s rebranding process. I grappled with it and hoped to look at it objectively before coming to any rash conclusions.

In his Nov. 13 article regarding Dr. Cooper’s open forum with students, our managing editor Pat Kenney said, “The largest body on campus is the students. They have the majority and they can become the change they want to see, but only if they push for it.”

My push as a student comes in the form of this column, which expresses opinions that will likely be unpopular. I do not hope for this to be button-pushing, just the opinion of one student. Perhaps it is an opinion that aligns with the opinions of other students, perhaps not.

The rationale for a rebranding process cannot be questioned. Competition between colleges in the Northeast is more rabid than ever, and there has been an alarming decline of high school graduates in the region since 2008. Fewer high school graduates have meant fewer college attendees.

With that said, I also trust Dr. Cooper’s intuition in improving the student experience at Springfield College during her presidency. I would venture to say that, under her helm, the campus has already seen many vast improvements.

My issue with rebranding stems from a fear that the student body has invested in the idea as something that will produce significant change.

When our editor in chief, Andrew Gutman, first wrote about the rebranding for our paper on Oct. 30, he stressed exactly that point. He said, “The rebranding is targeted at not changing the school, but highlighting what Springfield is about.”

Sure, our current taglines are “Great Ideas Are Born Here” and “The Birthplace of Basketball.” When you take that into account, it would be hard to say rebranding is a worthless idea. What highlights Springfield College’s current endeavors less than clinging to the historical tidbit that basketball was invented here 123 years ago?

In the Oct. 30 article, it was also suggested that Springfield College hopes to claim that the first student to ever graduate from the institution was an African American male. While this is a far more important piece of history than the creation of basketball, it is still a very dated piece of history that is virtually meaningless in terms of rebranding to prospective students.

Another supposed focus of the rebranding process is generating a logo to accompany the school’s trademark triangular crest. While this may be important to the school itself, a logo is unlikely to persuade anyone that Springfield College is the choice for them.

Assuredly Springfield College’s administration understands this, as does Ologie, the company that will assist in the rebranding process.

If the Springfield College community hopes to grow, it must successfully highlight its mission of service to others. As a prospective student making my college decision in the 2010-11 school year, I visited the campus multiple times.

Like many others, I took a liking to the mantra of “Spirit, Mind, and Body” that tour guides and faculty members often mentioned. At the time, I was also intrigued by the prevalence of athletics.

However, it was not until I was a student that I had any indication to what the Springfield College is all about: camaraderie, service, and continuity.

I firmly believe in what Springfield College has to offer at its bare bones, but it is time to start trimming some of the fluff that seems to muddy what we are really about. This is something I have felt very frustrated about for four years now.

The Springfield College experience is not about wearing a beanie and attending an orientation disguised as a middle school summer camp. It is not about being ridiculed for walking on the grass for ‘cutting corners in life.’ For most students, it also has nothing to do with basketball or anything that happened at the school when it was an all-male YMCA training facility.

This is not to downplay the rich history and tradition of the institution. Rather, it is a recognition that it is not going to be a key factor for prospective students in their college decision.

Springfield College is about being part of a tight-knit community with a real esperit de corps. For this reason, I hope the end result of the rebranding period is an ability to show prospective students what a Springfield College educational experience is all about.

History and tradition are heartwarming, but they are inconsequential to today’s market of students looking to find the school that can best pave their future.  For many of these students, Springfield College is the school that can pave a bright future—but they need to know how.

A rebranding should highlight Springfield College’s commitment to service, and accentuate its variety of educational programs it can confidently display.

While there are a multitude of factors that go into the college decision making process for prospective students, they are after all deciding on an education. There is plenty of quality education to offer here, and that should be packaged into a bare-bones message. No need to fluff it up. Be straightforward, and students will always attend.

Once these students attend, there also needs to be a focus on valuing their opinions. Dr. Cooper does an incredible job of this.

My frustration as a student does not exist due to a dislike of Springfield College. I love the institution, and owe a lot of my personal growth to it. My frustration is the result of what the institution tries to be.

Prospective students do not care about what happened here hundreds of years ago. Once they come here, they may find themselves in love with the school enough that they will care.

On the flip side of that argument, yes, prospective students care what the campus superficially looks like. They might be attracted to whopping, shiny archways and four-face street clocks. Current students are not, though.

I could not help but find myself laughing about that Alden Street archway last winter as I sat in a first-floor Locklin Hall classroom with buckets scattered throughout because of a ceiling that leaked daily.

Everyone at Springfield College should aim to be straightforward. This is a great place. Honesty will draw prospective students in, and that is what the rebranding should be all about. Forget the superficial diversions. Forget the irrelevant historical anecdotes.

Tell prospective students how great of a place this is, not what was done here in the distant past.

Tyler Leahy can be reached at tleahy2@springfieldcollege.edu

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