Genesis of a Brand Platform: Wheelock College “Tough Enough”

by Deb Gere on August 1st, 2014

Inside Higher Ed recently featured Wheelock College’s bold new “Tough Enough” marketing campaign in its article “Boston institutions try to grab attention with provocative marketing efforts.”

A SimpsonScarborough client, Wheelock had never before engaged in a comprehensive advertising or marketing campaign in its 126 year history. But leadership knew that competing in the crowded Boston higher education landscape—on the heels of a recession and faced with the demographic reality of a shrinking national pool of high school students—meant taking action.

If those challenges were not enough, Wheelock—a former women’s college primarily known for its programs in the helping professions, particularly early childhood education, child advocacy and social work—wanted to attract a more diverse student body in terms of race and ethnicity, geography, socioeconomic backgrounds and learning styles. And while not the primary goal, they also wanted to attract more males. Despite being a coeducational institution for 60 years, males still represented less than 10% of students, a figure leadership seeks to double by 2020. Meeting these admission goals would mean not just finding more students, but finding the right students, those who shared a passion for the school’s mission to “improve the lives of children and families.”

But there was concern that this focus on improving lives was too narrow and limiting. To find out, Wheelock turned to SimpsonScarborough in 2011 for extensive qualitative and quantitative research. Instead, the research revealed that current students, faculty, staff and alumni all identified this as the institution’s most distinctive attribute. According to SimpsonScarborough CEO Elizabeth Scarborough, “Wheelock College is one of very few colleges or universities I have ever worked with where every single person you talk with can recite a portion of the mission statement.”

This mission statement also resonated strongly with prospective students, who identified it as the most appealing attribute in their decision where to enroll and who strongly associated this attribute with Wheelock. In other words, this mission was not only a point of pride for the Wheelock community, but a clear differentiator in the Boston higher education market. The implication was clear—keep the brand intact and market it more. But how?

The answer came through Wheelock’s work with creative firm Mindpower in late 2012 and 2013. “The Mindpower team told us that in interviews, they were consistently being told that outsiders didn’t understand the extent of the challenge faced by practitioners in the helping professions,” said Wheelock marketing manager Stephen Dill. Wheelock had the opportunity to reinforce its mission and elevate the helping professions. They could show what it means to be “tough enough” to inspire a world of good.

Mindpower began the work of delineating the personality, values, promise and creative expression of what it means to be “tough enough.” Anything new involves a transition,” said Beth Kaplan, communication and external affairs manager at Wheelock. “We had some alumni who were really supportive and some who were very critical. But whether feedback is negative, positive or neutral, it’s important that everyone’s thoughts are heard.” This feedback was essential in refining the strategy over the course of the year leading to the fall 2013 brand launch. In preparation for that launch, the leadership and marketing team worked diligently to explain to the Wheelock community how they arrived at “Tough Enough,” the emotion and intent of the brand platform, and what it meant in terms of creative expression of the brand. Wheelock “tough,” they explained, isn’t about being rough, mean or aggressive, but rather about the inner strength needed to work in the helping professions. As Wheelock President Jackie Jenkins-Scott explains, “It takes resilience, persistence, and patience to help a child learn to read, to advance human rights, or to steer a teenager back on track.”

As noted in the Inside Higher Ed article, the campaign is already showing results. While not wholly attributed to marketing, as the branding changes were being made as a full rebuild of the undergrad admissions process was instituted, campus visits have increased 60% over last year, the class entering in fall 2014 is 35% larger than the fall of 2013, and male applications are up 20%.The influence of the design and implementation of the “Tough Enough” campaign cannot be denied.

“When we started working with Wheelock, the leadership was worried that the focus on ‘improving the lives of women and children’ was too narrow and limiting,” said Elizabeth Scarborough. “But we discovered the opposite. By focusing even more on this positioning, Wheelock opened itself up to so many more people. That’s Great Branding 101—focus your positioning so that people who share your passion and vision can find you.”

To see more of the campaign work visit


Data analytics, digital metrics and brand integration just a few of the hot topics coming to 2014 AMA Symposium

by Deb Gere on July 10th, 2014

Get into a “Lone Star State of Mind” and join us at the 2014 AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education, slated for November 10-13 in Austin, Texas. This year’s Symposium features 48 general lecture sessions on topics ranging including digital strategy, marketing in action, marketing operations, brand strategy, marketing intelligence and more.

Look for these presentations featuring clients and friends of SimpsonScarborough:

Monday, November 10 (Pre-Conference Tutorials)

Basic Marketing for Higher EdTom Hayes, Chair and Professor of Marketing, Xavier University

The Power of Data: Using Research to Build a Brand and Track Performance. Christie Harper, Assistant Vice President for University Marketing, California Lutheran University; Rachel Reuben, Vice President, Communications, Colgate University

Digital Metrics 101: Analytics, Search and Social. Tim Jones, Associate Vice President of Marketing, Clarkson University; Nick DeNardis, Associate Director of Web Communications, Wayne State University

Digital Marketing Strategy: Skills for Thriving as the New World Continues to Emerge. Bob Johnson, Bob Johnson Consulting LLC

Tuesday, November 11

Convergence: Marketers as Masters of the Mix: Charlie Melichar, Senior Consultant, Marts&Lundy; Andrew Careaga, Director of Communications, Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T)

Brand vs. Campaign? Or Brand + Campaign? Balancing Short-Term and Long-Term Goals in Higher Ed Marketing. Teri Lucie Thompson, Senior Vice President University Relations & Chief Marketing Officer, University of Arizona; Bill Faust, Senior Partner & Chief Strategy Officer, Ologie

Using Brand to Build Community: Honesty and Authenticity to Overcome Adversity: Luanne Lawrence, Associate Chancellor, Strategic Communications, UC Davis; Cynthia Hall, Associate Vice President, Strategic Communications, Penn State University; Moderator: Tracy Syler-Jones, Vice Chancellor for Marketing & Communications, Texas Christian University

Brand Yoga: How Far Can You Stretch a Brand Before it Breaks? Ram Kapoor, Executive Director, Marketing and Digital Communications, UC Berkeley

The PreparedU Project: The Integration of Brand, Thought Leadership & Content Marketing. David Perry, Chief Marketing Officer, Bentley University

The Art of Joyous Disruption: Regis University’s “Break-the-Rules” Brand Launch. Soon Beng Yeap, Assistant Vice President for Marketing Communications, Regis University

Crystalizing Internal Communications—You Can Do This! Gregory Carroll, Vice President, Marketing, Stetson University

Wednesday, November 12

Blockbuster Results on a B-movie Budget: Getting the Most out of Your Video Dollars. J. D. Fite, Senior Director of Communications, Agnes Scott College; Jon Milavec, Owner and Producer, Mixed Bag Media

Early Adoption in Higher Ed: How To Be Strategic About Social Media Instead of “Savvy.” Aaron Jaco, Digital Media Specialist, Drake University; Kyle Gunnels, Senior Strategist, TVP Communications

Download the Symposium program for the full list of presentations.


Marketing Investments Benchmarking Study

by Elizabeth Scarborough on July 9th, 2014

I’m thrilled to announce that SimpsonScarborough and the Chronicle of Higher Education have partnered to conduct an important study of higher ed marketing investments. In our work around the country, we are constantly asked if any benchmarks exist regarding marketing budgets, staff, priorities, and responsibilities. Our clients (which are mostly VP level marketers on college/university campuses) want to know how much their peers are spending, how they are organized, how many staff members they have, and how those staff members are allocated across the various roles on their team. A few studies have attempted to get at this information but the findings are hampered by low sample sizes when you break down the data by institution type.

We have been working with the Chronicle for months to develop a strong survey instrument to gather this information once and for all. I can’t say the instrument is “short.”  It will require about 15 minutes to complete. But, the questions are reasonable and can be answered off the top of your head.  You will not have to open any of your budget documents to participate. But, participation is critical. Good data will only come from a very strong response rate.  So if you are fundamentally in charge of marketing at your institution, be on the look out for an email inviting you to participate in the study.  Data collection will most likely begin late next week.

Our industry NEEDS this data so please participate. Those who do will receive a special copy of the findings.

If you want to absolutely ensure that you receive an invitation to participate, please send an email to Wanda Hoath at

SimpsonScarborough is Hiring

by wandah on May 9th, 2014

SimpsonScarborough, a market research and strategy  firm that works exclusively with colleges and universities, seeks a Project Strategist for its Old Town Alexandria, VA headquarters office. Preferably, candidates should have at least three years of project management experience. Interest in market research and higher education is preferred.
The Project Strategist is responsible for start-to-finish project management including maintaining effective communication with clients, establishing and maintaining timelines, preparing client correspondence, drafting moderator guides and survey instruments for qualitative and quantitative research, working with external data collection vendors, coordinating and conducting focus groups, writing reports, and presenting to clients.
The Project Strategist will be expected to travel to client campuses. Travel time is estimated at 10% of the position’s time.  Salary range is $40,000-$45,000, commensurate with experience.
Please submit cover letters and resumes to Wanda Hoath at on or before May 30, 2014. For additional information about SimpsonScarborough, please visit our website at

CASE Resources for Higher Ed Marketers

by Deb Gere on May 2nd, 2014

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) offers the following resources for Higher Ed Marketers

Conferences and Training in 2014

Track sessions at CASE-NAIS, district conferences, Congreso, APAC, CEAC and Summit, as well as conferences and workshops for communications and marketing:

  • Jan. 8-10: Annual Conference for Media Relations Professionals, Washington D.C.
  • Jan. 23, 2014: Directors Debate 2014, London
  • Feb. 13: Alumni Relations in Times of Crisis, online
  • Feb 18: #EdNews: Making Twitter Work for Small Shops, online (Community Colleges)
  • Feb. 19: Media Training Workshop, Naples
  • Feb. 24: Writing for Fundraisers to Achieve Impact and Outcomes, Singapore
  • Feb. 26: Writing for Fundraisers to Achieve Impact and Outcomes, Melbourne
  • Feb. 27: Refresh and Relaunch Your Institutional Brand, Online
  • March 12-14: Multimedia Workshop, Washington D.C.
  • March 19-21: Social Media and Community, Marina del Rey
  • March 20: Best Practices for Online Advertising, Online
  • March 25-26: Engaging Community College Alumni: A Virtual Conference, Online
  • April 2-4: Editors Forum, New Orleans
  • April 15: Constructing a Student-Focused Community College Website, Online
  • April 24: Do-It-Yourself Market Research and Data Analysis, Online
  • April 30-May 2: Annual Conference on Marketing and Branding, Baltimore
  • May 15: Balancing Academic and Athletic Brands
  • June: Advertising & Media-Buying Workshop (also Marketing)
  • July: Summer Institute in Communications & Marketing

CASE Books

There are currently 14 books under Marketing in the CASE Store, with books on branding, assessment and benchmarking, student recruitment and information, and online recruitment. There are also 18 books in the store under the Communications category, with books on assessment and benchmarking, communications plans, communities and social media, crisis management, media relations, online and electronic communications, public relations, site design, web writing, writing and editing, government relations, internal communications, media training and site management. Available titles include:

  • Advancing Small Colleges: Strategies for Success
  • Archive of Re-imagining Your Brand Manual
  • Art of Woo: Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas
  • Caffeine for the Creative Mind: 250 Exercises to Wake Up Your Brain
  • Archive of Changing Demographics & How This Affects Your Business, Today & Tomorrow
  • Competing for Students, Money and Reputation: Marketing the Academy in the 21st Century
  • Archive of Creating and Sustaining a University-Wide Integrated Marketing Culture
  • Archive of Growing Brand and Enrollment through Social Media: Tips for Community Colleges
  • Handbook of Institutional Advancement
  • Archive of Higher Ed Marketing Metrics
  • Independent School Advancement Series: Student Recruitment
  • Integrating Marketing Communication: A Practical Guide to Developing Comprehensive Communication Strategies
  • Integrated Marketing Workbook for Colleges and Universities
  • Archive of Introduction to Communications and Marketing
  • Marketing Colleges and Universities: A Services Approach
  • Archive of Measurement Matters: Tracking the Productivity of Your Marketing Effort
  • NAIS Handbook on Marketing Independent Schools
  • Net Proceeds: Increased Revenue from Enrollment and Advancement—Guaranteed!
  • New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly
  • The Real U: Building Brands that Resonate with Students, Faculty, Staff and Donors
  • University Marketing Mistakes: 50 Pitfalls to Avoid
  • Weathering the Storm: Protecting Your Brand in the Worst of Times

CURRENTS Articles (Selected)

More CURRENTS and BriefCASE articles can be found in Browse by Professional Interest under Marketing.

Other Products

Communities and Social Media

2014 AMA Symposium Call for Proposals

by Deb Gere on March 6th, 2014

Have innovative and effective higher ed marketing strategies to share with your peers? Then it’s time to work on your paper proposal for this year’s AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education, slated for November 10-13 in Austin, Texas. Co-chaired by SimpsonScarborough’s Jason Simon and mStoner’s Deborah Maue, the Symposium is the largest professional development opportunity for higher ed marketers. It will feature 48 general lecture sessions falling into one of the six tracks described below:

Digital Strategy
(social media, content marketing, web, crowdfunding, search/inbound)

From Google search, to tweet, to mobile website visit, marketers have to plan for every way our increasingly connected audience is finding us. Proposals should cover cutting-edge strategies for creating consistent and compelling digital communications.

Marketing In Action
(undergraduate and graduate recruitment, nontraditional student recruitment, emerging markets, alumni engagement and philanthropic marketing)

For higher ed marketers, this is where the rubber meets the road. How can we do a better job of enrolling highly qualified students, identifying new markets, inspiring alumni and courting donors. Proposals in this category should showcase the innovative ways you’re engaging constituents to achieve results.

Marketing Operations
(staffing, budgeting, organizational structure, teams, tools, and tricks of the trade)

People, processes, budgets, data…managing successful marketing operations has never been easy, and it’s becoming increasingly complex. Proposals should cover innovative approaches and tools to help marcomm professionals elevate their work and take their organizations to the next level.

Brand Strategy
(positioning, market planning, identity, voice and messaging, integrated campaigns, advertising, measurement)

How do you find your institution’s voice, brand position, and bring it to life? Proposals in this category should cover innovative approaches to developing university brand strategies from broad strategies; bringing it to life through integrated campaigns, advertising and more; and  maintaining and evolving your institution’s brand.

Marketing Intelligence
(market opportunity, web analytics, data mining, competitive intelligence, dashboards, research, measurement)

From Google Analytics to Big Data, marketers have never been more accountable for assessment of market opportunity and measurement of marketing activity. Proposals should cover innovative ways in which you are using data, intelligence, and research to determine who your key audiences are, the best ways to reach them and the results of those activities.

Austin City (No)Limits
(student affairs, career services, the kitchen sink, unleashed creativity)

Proposals should highlight solutions and strategies to answer every marcomm professional’s worst nightmare/challenge: “Can you just … ?” One session will be a repeat of last year’s 9 x 5 Open Mic Round Robin: The steering committee will pick 9 proposals that each can showcase one best practice in under 5 minutes.

Download the call for proposals for complete submission guidelines. Proposals are due April 19.

Q&A with New SimpsonScarborough Vice President Jason Simon

by Deb Gere on February 6th, 2014

SimpsonScarborough announced in January that Jason Simon will join our team this month as vice president and partner. Named AMA Higher Ed Marketer of the year in 2013, Jason is well-known in the higher ed marcomm field, having served as executive director of marketing communications at University of California System since 2009. But you may not know that Jason got his start as a sports writer and editor. We sat down with Jason to learn more about how he got his start in higher ed marcomm, why he is making the leap to SimpsonScarborough and some of the changes and opportunities he sees ahead in our field.

Q: You got your start as a sports writer and editor.  How did you get into higher ed marcomm?

A: When I was in college I was a basketball manager for North Carolina State University and really thought I wanted to be a college coach. But I migrated into sports journalism and, later, was the media relations director for NC State’s men’s basketball team for nearly five years. It was a great job—what some might consider a dream job—but I wearied of the lack of control and repetition and was hungry for something else. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to work for a small branding firm in the Research Triangle Park and worked on some great corporate clients—IBM, SonyEricsson, RedHat—helping with brand strategy, advertising and broader communications needs.

After some time there I learned of an opportunity at NC State on the marketing side. It was a newly-created position, the only marketing position, and I was pretty excited about the chance to go back to my alma mater and build a program. We went through a research, positioning, campaign process, and I led efforts to re-launch the main website, launch a capital campaign, and manage a creative service team that was fully funded on charge-back. So my agency experience really came in handy.

At some point, I felt like I’d accomplished almost everything I could have at NC State and had started to keep my eyes out for opportunities when I came across a great position at the University of California System. They had gone through a complete reorganization, so it was a chance to build a team and a program from the ground up. Being at UC has given me a terrific perch to understand issues at multiple campus and system levels and, from a leadership position, to understand the major issues facing higher ed today.

Q: Your keynote at the 2013 AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education touched upon the need to accept change as a constant—what do you see as the biggest changes coming to higher ed in general, and marcomm in particular?

A: It’s a really exciting time to be a marketer in higher education. There just is so much happening around the broader public dialogue around rising costs of tuition, value of a degree, national policy from the White House, state funding issues, increases in philanthropy, changing (and declining) demographics of college-aged students, the rise of the low-income student, MOOCs, online education and so much more. And between that and the evolution of social media, it’s really putting marketing in such a high-level strategic place at institutions. It’s no wonder the CMO role continues to rise on campus.

I think marketers need to be willing to accept some of these changes, and I believe marketers can be real champions on campus—on-campus consultants, conveners that brings people together—the marketer working with IT, admissions, institutional research, alumni and fundraising. Even at bigger institutions, divides between media and marketing are going away with the opportunity to own your story more directly through social and digital channels. A voice of strategy that can inform campus leaders about changes and perceptions in the market and devise strategies is a real asset to any campus.

Q: The UC logo controversy that blew up in late 2012 seems like a case study on rolling with changes.  From the outside, it certainly looked like a controversy that could have been job-jeopardizing. And yet, you were ultimately named AMA Higher Ed Marketer of the Year—tell us more about that.

A: I was fortunate that we had strong leadership support that realized that the steps we’d taken were all sound and solid approaches. It was disappointing but I don’t think I ever worried about my job.

In the midst of the frenzy, I had a couple of conversations with people I really respect in higher ed. There was a real sense of trepidation in what we were enduring, namely because it’s been an all-too-familiar trend not only around logos but really around higher ed marketing efforts in general. Critics were viewing marketing efforts as surface-level promotion. I knew we had to tell the full story—not only to correct things that were left out of the reporting (like the idea we hadn’t done creative testing)—because there was a lot to learn from our experience. I felt obligated to stand up for the importance of marketing and for trying new and different approaches that attempt to cut through the cluttered media landscape we’re all in.

I think one reason our story—and the way we responded and managed through it—has resonated is because there’s a certain inevitability that in today’s social media-driven world, things can flare up and be really visible. Accepting that things don’t always work out and preparing yourself for constant re-adjustment are things today’s marketer must be keenly aware of.

Response to Jason Simon Announcement Overwhelming

by Elizabeth Scarborough on January 21st, 2014

On Friday, SimpsonScarborough announced that Jason Simon will be joining the firm as a partner in February. The response we received from friends and colleagues around the country was quite overwhelming. Thank you for all your notes and well wishes. Here is a sample:

• “Congratulations Jason. Well deserved, well earned. I’m excited to see how you’ll change the industry next.”
• “Congratulations. You can count me in as a future client.”
• “Congratulations, Jason! This is a great move for you and your career and I hope it goes really well for you! Sorry to lose you from UC.”
• “That is AWESOME!! I have four projects ahead with SimpsonScarborough this year, so it sure would be awesome to get to work with you! Congratulations!”
• “Thanks so much for sharing with me. Can’t tell you how excited I am for you. I have a ton of respect and admiration for what SimpsonScarborough does and, with you in a leadership position there, I can only imagine what you’ll accomplish.”
• “Congrats to you all! Jason is a great hire, and SimpsonScarborough shouldn’t settle for any less! I look forward to the next era for you all.”
• “Congratulations on bringing in Jason. You guys will be phenomenal together. Looking forward to finding more ways to work together.”
• “A great addition. Congrats!”
• “What terrific news. Congratulations to you, Jason, and to everyone at SS. Looking forward to more great projects together.”
• “Congratulations Elizabeth on a great addition to your already impressive team. We are excited about the potential of working with you all in the not-too-distant future.”
• “Congratulations, all. Nice. Excellent choice. I thought Jason’s presentation at AMA was brilliant, and – more important – I thought the work he led at UC system was brilliant and well managed. Hmmmm, a ‘best’ joining the best. As life should be.”
• “This is excellent news!!!! Congrats to Jason. What an asset for SimpsonScarborough.”
• “We’re sad to lose him as a colleague but delighted to work with him as a partner. Welcome, Jason!”
• “Congratulations, Elizabeth! You’ve landed a great catch, which will make a great firm even greater.”
• “Congratulations to Jason and what a great addition for SimpsonScarborough!”
• “I am very happy for you, but sad for the UC. I think you were the most innovative and forward looking person I have worked with at a university.”
• “You will be terrific at this new work, and many institutions will be better off for having worked with you. Enjoy the journey!”
• “Congratulations, Elizabeth! Jason is as lucky to be part of your team as you are to have him as one of your partners. His hire is truly on brand for SimpsonScarborough. Very cool.”
• “I am very excited for you guys! Jason is awesome and I hope with all the work we’re planning to do this year that we get to work with him at some point! :) Congratulations!”
• “That’s great for you. Really. I’ve conducted over 150 interviews and I was so impressed with Jason — whipsmart and really nice / professional. He will be a great asset, I’m sure! Congratulations!”
• “Congratulations, Elizabeth, what a very smart strategic move!”
• “What a match made in heaven. Congrats to you all.”
• “I am so sorry to hear you’ll be leaving. What a loss for the university! But this sounds like a great opportunity. Congratulations and good luck on your new adventures!”
• “Congratulations. Sounds like a good move for you. Thank you for you strong leadership at UC! Let’s stay in touch!”
• “Congratulations!! For some reason I knew after your impressive presentation at AMA this year, which SimpsonScarborough obviously enjoyed, you would be moving on to bigger things! We have worked with Liz and Jeff for many years and would love to work with you also. “
• “Congratulations on your move. Please use your great brain, however, to continue to advance understanding that “brand” as conventionally considered will not solve the great ills of higher education. I was so impressed by your capture of the larger concerns about value and service you were tackling in California. Keep that flame burning!”
• “I am NOT surprised!”
• “Exciting news! A great hire for your firm, as well!”
• “Wow – great “get”! Well done!”
• “That’s great news, Jason. SimpsonScarborough is a great company, and in fact they are on my list to contact about a new awareness study we need to do very soon.”

River Hawks Rising: UML Brand a Success Story in the Making

by Deb Gere on December 6th, 2013

UML's new, $40 million Health & Social Sciences building, which opened in 2013

A Lowell, Massachusetts resident since 1998, I’ve watched with fascination as UMass Lowell (UML) has transformed itself under the leadership of former Congressman Marty Meehan, who became Chancellor in 2007. When I moved to the area, UML was widely perceived as a safety school—one lifelong Lowell residents have described to me as “a place for local kids to go get a bargain-basement education”—not a bad school, but nothing stellar.  It’s not that school anymore.

Enrollment is up 40% since 2007. UML ranks 158 in U.S. News & World Report’s 2014 edition of Best Colleges, National Universities category, up 12 spots since 2013 and 25 spots in the past three years. It ranks tenth this year on Forbes magazine’s 25 Best Value Colleges, and was ranked tenth by Payscale, Inc. on return on investment among public institutions nationwide.  Business Insider  named it the No. 1 “Most Underrated College in America.”

UML successes don’t end there.  In 2013, the UML River Hawks Division 1 Hockey Team won Hockey East and advanced to the Frozen Four for the first time since it entered D1 in 1984. All other sports, formerly Division 2, made the jump to Division 1 as part of the America East Conference this fall.

All these changes are getting attention. The regional newspaper, the Lowell Sun, last year featured a 72-page digital special on the University’s achievements. And last month, WCVB-5 Boston’s award-winning Chronicle program featured the transformation of Lowell—both university and the city itself (you can watch the UML segment here starting at the 2:10 mark).

None of these successes happened by chance. As the Lowell Sun reported, when it proposed naming its feature “The Miracle at UMass Lowell,” Chancellor Meehan balked, emphasizing that “every improvement has been strategically planned by university leaders.” That planning has included more than $500 million in capital investments, including new student housing, dining hall upgrades, new parking garages, and two new academic buildings—the first academic buildings constructed on campus since the 1970s.  Construction is currently underway on University Crossing, a hub that will connect the University’s three campuses to each other and to downtown Lowell and feature a one-stop service center for students, a new bookstore, a café, space for 150+ student organizations, and more. Planning has begun for the new Pulichino Tong Business Building, which will house the University’s Robert J. Manning School of Business. And on November 20, Massachusetts Governor Duval Patrick announced a $20 million investment to renovate and modernize Perry Hall, home to the university’s engineering program. The River Hawks move to Division 1 was also a carefully plotted step in that strategic plan—a move to increase the university’s visibility and improve the student experience.

These successes also reflect a strong partnership between the University and its home city, a place with its own story of reinvention. This shared purpose and spirit of collaboration is visible everywhere, from the transformation of old properties into gleaming new facilities, to the university’s incubator program for high-tech startups, to the Graduate School of Education’s partnerships with the Lowell National Historical Park and the city’s public schools.

Through all of this, one thing is clear: the transformation of UMass Lowell is a story in progress. The River Hawks are rising—and driven to continue their momentum toward the top.

SimpsonScarborough VP Tom Hayes Announces Retirement

by Deb Gere on November 1st, 2013

SimpsonScarborough designates this month’s newsletter to celebrating the career of Vice President and Partner Tom Hayes, who retires this month. A founding partner, Tom has been here since the beginning in 2006, working alongside Christopher Simpson and Elizabeth Scarborough to build SimpsonScarborough into what it is today. Tom has always been passionate about the field of higher education marketing, and we applaud the energy, enthusiasm and experience he always brought to the table.

When Christopher Simpson began looking to partner with well-known experts to transform his small consulting business into an industry leader, Tom Hayes was a clear choice. Known as the “father of higher education marketing,” Tom has consulted with hundreds of colleges and universities worldwide on issues of integrated marketing, branding and market research. A longtime professor of marketing at Xavier University and editor of the Journal of Marketing for Higher Education, he was an early pioneer of linking academic strategic planning with institutional marketing and branding goals. Tom founded the American Marketing Association’s Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education, which has grown into the largest professional development opportunity for higher ed marketers. He has written five books to date and regularly speaks at more than 20 conferences worldwide each year.

I had the opportunity to chat with Tom last week to talk about his contributions to the field of higher education marketing and his time with SimpsonScarborough.

Q: How did you end up the field of higher education marketing? We often mention your involvement in developing the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education—how did that come about?

A: In the late 1970s and through most of the 80s, I focused on healthcare marketing. My Ph.D. dissertation on healthcare marketing prepared me for the field. I was very involved with the AMA in their national conferences on healthcare marketing and was on a number of planning committees for the AMA and a group called the American College of Healthcare Marketing. In fact, I was named the Healthcare Marketer of the year by this group in 1988.

Around this time I observed that most of the changes and upheaval in the healthcare environment were going to happen to higher education. I began teaching at Xavier University in 1976, so I felt I had an even better grasp of the education market than I did the healthcare market. I approached the AMA about conducting a national conference on higher ed marketing, and they were not quite ready for it at the time, thinking the market was not big enough. My university backed the first Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education, which took place in 1989 in Cincinnati. This marked my entrance into the field.

Q: Tell me how the field of higher ed marketing and the Symposium have changed over time.

A: The first year we had around 136 people in attendance, but it made money. By the time the second symposium came around, I was appointed to the AMA’s national board and they co-sponsored the event with Xavier. They then took it over completely the third year.  Some of the people who have been there from the beginning are Bob Johnson, Bob Sevier and Carole Custer.

I enjoy being involved with the Symposium. I used to give the opening keynote every other year. This went on for the first ten years of the Symposium and was meant to be more “motivational” in nature. We have gotten far beyond the need for that. The last time I gave a keynote was when we had a cancellation at the last minute (as in 12 hours before,) and I was asked to fill in. I still provide the tutorial on Principles of Marketing for Higher Education each year and have done so since year one.

The vast majority of attendees in 1989 and the early years were from admissions departments (not too many enrollment strategy departments then) and academics interested in the field. Today, there are hardly any pure academics, and most attendees come from marketing departments that are found in university relations, enrollment, or free-standing entities. It has become much more accepted as an integral part of the university strategic process.

The field is still developing and not near where it needs to go. Marketing should have a seat at the executive level just as it does in the organizations we prepare our students to enter.

Q. What were the highlights of your time at SimpsonScarborough—personal or professional?

A. The highlights are the same—the people I have met and worked with.  Being part of building such a great company as SimpsonScarborough has been a blessing. The early days with Christopher Simpson, Teresa Valerio Parrot, Chris Turner, Elizabeth and Meredith Simpson are forever burned in my memory. As the company grew, getting to know Jeff and Dana and the rest of the team was something that has contributed a great deal to my life. I will miss interacting with everyone in the office when I came to Washington for meetings and retreats. I will miss the camaraderie that has been built among the staff and the total dedication to the clients.  I miss everyone already.

Q: Do you have a favorite project?  Most gratifying? Why?

A: I don’t have a favorite project. Terry Flannery from American University always says that I never worked for a school I didn’t like…and this is true. I have been in and around higher education my entire life, as my father was a college professor. Teaching and working with students and helping prepare them to contribute to society is a privilege. I truly believe we need an educated workforce to continue to grow and thrive as a country.

Everyone I meet in higher education shares this same feeling. They want to help their institutions succeed and contribute, and I have always considered myself fortunate to be in a position to help. People feel passionately about their schools and their students; it is hard not to enjoy working in that environment.

Q: We’ve been known to have some adventurous staff retreats?  Do you have a favorite it?  Admit it—you are retiring to avoid near-tropical storms on a sailboat, right?

A: My most memorable staff retreat will always be the first to St. Lucia with Christopher Simpson. While it was the last that was that lavish, it is hard to beat the Caribbean in December. We were invited to bring our families, and it was a great way for our young company to bond.

Q: What’s your next chapter?

A: I hope to get involved more heavily with CASE, ACE. AMA and AJCU, as these organizations have had such a profound influence on my life. I want to continue to contribute to the field in any way I can. This includes a rededication to writing as well. I recently wrote a book chapter for a Jossey-Bass book titled The Handbook on Strategic Enrollment Management. I wrote the chapter on “Marketing and the Enrollment Process.”

What I really love to do and feel I am best at is public speaking. I hope to be able to continue speaking at conferences and/or on college campuses on marketing-related topics and their role in the university.

I have spent 38 years teaching at Xavier University and have at least another 12 in me; students keep you young, and you can’t be an effective teacher unless you stay connected to what is going on in the world. This too keeps you young—so I guess, the next chapter will be to avoid growing old!