How effective is Georgia College at communicating (internally and externally) what it means to be a public liberal arts university?
(Strategic Focusing Initiative – Strategic Focus Advisory Council - Summary of responses from Question C, Stakeholder Conference)
The summary sheet listed 178 comments from conference participants for Question C. Members of the Academic Programs Distinction Workgroup summarized those comments. The predominant theme that emerged from our reading was communicating with stakeholders (e.g., faculty, students, alumni, members of the local community). Most responses did not directly answer the question but instead made suggestions about what we should be doing or saying.
Comments of participants (as counted by one committee member) can be classified as follows:
Category, # of Responses
1. Stakeholders, 73
2. Level of communication effectiveness, 51
3. Media, 35
4. Points of Distinction, 9
5. Importance of Service, 3
Other (unable to classify the comment), 12
Some responses cut across more that one category. For example, "continue to build relationships with the local papers and communicate more effectively with graduates – through timely publications." The response mentions stakeholders and makes a suggestion about how GC can use the media more effectively.
Category 1 "Stakeholders" includes responses that can be summarized as who are our stakeholders and what should we be saying to them. A predominant message in this area was who are we? - - meaning what does it mean to be a PLAC? or what does PLAC mean at GC? A sample comment:
"The words public liberal arts university' are used frequently – many people do not understand what that means – we are not just educating liberals.'"
A similar comment:
"I see the local community as being offended mostly and having the impression that we are trying to shut them out, for example, the first-year residency requirement."
The largest number of responses reflects the perception that GC stakeholders (faculty, staff, students, alumni …) lack a clear definition or clear agreement about what public liberal arts means. Simply adopting some characteristics of a PLAC (e.g., small classes, quality faculty-student interaction, service learning) doesn't address the issue of knowing who we are. Participant comments suggest that clarifying this definition should come before marketing who we are. That "marketing" must be clearly packaged to specific groups of stakeholders.
There were some comments about mission clarity as it relates to the professional schools. For example: "Internally some of the Arts faculty still do not understand how professional schools fit in" and "There is some confusion over the role and place of the professional schools on branch campuses."
"Media" and "stakeholder" overlapped in that a number of comments mentioned tailoring messages to specific groups.
There were 51 comments that actually answered the question relating to communication effectiveness, both internally and externally. As you might expect, the perceptions of individuals at the conference were very mixed:
- 13 said we are doing Ok or fair (or some similar term) internally
- 8 said we need to improve internal communications
- 17 said our external communications need to improve
- 13 said our external communications were Ok or good.
A number of comments related to the use of media, both within the region and nationally. A few mentioned format, such as graphics, "distinctive visual images," as well as content "diversity in photographic advertising." There we a number of suggestions regarding specific outlets, such as magazines (e.g., Georgia Trend), newspapers (including the Atlanta papers), the Web site, mail outs, and local television coverage.
There were a few scattered comments about what we can do to be distinctive among other PLACs, such as "not clear how GCSU is different," "promote pillars of potential distinction," "collect our stories," and "establish key data elements beyond enrollment, SAT, retention, and graduation to demonstrate liberal arts accomplishments." Finally, there were some comments about the importance of service and how that links us with the community.
In short, respondents feel that we need to clearly understand who we are and then decide how to best communicate that message to various audiences.