Last August I walked across campus and saw for the first time the banners hanging from lampposts: “Doing All Things with Purpose, Genuine Ingenuity, An Academic Ecosystem.”
Such are the slogans—generic, insipid, and utterly uninspiring—those banners display, and it dismayed me to realize that UVM paid close to $1.6 million to a Philadelphia consulting firm for such “branding.”
Then, I joined with colleagues from across the campus to try an experiment: Every week last semester we staffed a table in the Davis Center atrium and invited students to create their own “homegrown slogans” for UVM. The results were specific, engaging, and truly inspiring.
Here are a few of my favorites:
“Experience Your Education”
“Active Campus. Active Minds”
“Where Knowledge Yields Action”
“The Universe in a University”
We had a serious aim in conducting this experiment: To tap into the tremendous resourcefulness of the campus community and to demonstrate that $1.6 million could be better spent supporting the academic mission that nurtures these young and creative minds.
UVM’s academic mission and its much-celebrated “teacher-scholar” model is, in fact, in peril. Even as an aging professoriate — our mean age is 52 — retires, the number of assistant professors has plummeted — from 150 in 2006 to 96 today.
That nearly $1.6 million spent on marketing might have funded the first year’s salaries for 25 new assistant professors and halted such a brain drain.
Or that nearly $1.6 million might have funded four-year tuition scholarships — more than two dozen for Vermonters and nearly a dozen for out-of-state students — to address the serious problem of students graduating with more debt than opportunity.
UVM has a choice. We can continue to expand the number of consultants and administrators tasked with marketing the increasingly hollow idea of a UVM education. Or we can keep UVM’s funds in education and tap into the talent that a UVM education is devoted to cultivating.
Professor of English