Goshen College is working with two consulting firms to tweak its image and offer new majors in an effort to increase enrollment. Through changes in marketing strategy, coupled with the addition of public health and criminal and restorative justice programs, the college is projecting enrollment increases over the next three years, according to Ann Venderly, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean.
Last May, GC hired the consulting firm SimpsonScarborough to help adjust the college’s marketing strategy.
Representatives from the firm met with focus groups of current students, faculty and staff to learn about what makes GC distinctive, said Dominique Burgunder-Johnson, Vice President for Marketing and Enrollment. The representatives inquired about what participants liked about GC, what challenges exist, and what they hope to see for the school in the future.
SimpsonScarborough also examined existing data from sources such as student and alumni surveys, as well as notes from the president to learn how the college currently talks about itself and presents itself visually. All of this information informed a survey last summer that was sent to prospective students, as well as in-depth interviews with guidance counselors around the nation, to get a sense of their current impressions of GC and what they are looking for in a college.
Burgunder-Johnson said the College is not seeking to “re-brand” entirely, but rather to “refresh” or “revitalize” its current image.
“We believe that GC already has a very strong brand, but that it’s good to do a reassessment of how we’re marketing and communicating that brand every few years to make sure that the way we’re marketing and communicating our brand still feels relevant and compelling for our key audiences,” Burgunder-Johnson said.
Following this initial research as well as a marketing testing survey sent to current GC students in December, the GC project core team is working with SimpsonScarborough to finalize a fresh creative concept for the school. Outcomes will include updated visual and messaging standard guidelines for employees to use when talking about the college to external audiences, as well as updated marketing pieces for use in admissions and other visuals around campus.
“One of things that stuck out to us about SimpsonScarborough is that they had particular strengths in research and data analysis,” said Burgunder-Johnson. “We were drawn to working with a partner that could provide recommendations that were well-informed by data.”
Final messaging and visual concepts are expected to be complete by the end of February, and the new marketing campaign will officially launch in the summer or fall, Burgunder-Johnson said.
In addition to changes in marketing, the college is working to tailor new academic programs to appeal to the desires of incoming and prospective students. The new programs also work to continue to build off of already strong existing programs. Last month, GC announced the addition of two new programs.
The Public Health track has been in the works for a couple of years, said Venderly, in an effort to provide another healthcare degree, an area in which the college has historically performed well. The Criminal Justice and Restorative Justice program came from existing strengths in the Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies department.
Last summer, a consultant with Stamats Communications was hired to analyze student demand for current and potential programs, and both new majors were recommended as a result of that research. The recommendations also pulled from a large study that began earlier in the spring and from work faculty was doing prior to the consultation.
“These two programs add new options for students that meet market demands,” said Vendrely. “They are both related to areas where Goshen has experience and faculty knowledge. These programs should attract more students to Goshen College and provide them with real world learning to meet our mission.”