In her inaugural address, President Julie Sullivan likened St. Thomas to a light under a basket, a wonderful biblical image. “We are the light under the bushel basket, and the basket is raised half way from the ground. The light is shining brightly within a certain radius. It is time to remove the basket and let our light shine more broadly into the world.” The strategic planning task force dedicated to enhancing our visibility and strengthening our student profile provides one mechanism to realize her vision.
The most visible outcome of this effort was the launch of our new brand last February. A comprehensive brand strategy such as ours weaves together all of our units’ individual marketing efforts, resulting in a bigger impact on the external community. Whether it’s our Opus College of Business, with graduate programs advertised on the side of a metro transit bus, or a website promoting a program in the School of Social Work, the brand insures recognizable and impactful communications which enhance our visibility.
The university has made significant structural changes as well. We have hired our first ever chief marketing officer, Kymm Martinez. Martinez has hit the ground running, rolling out a new name for her unit: Marketing, Insights and Communications. She is in the process of restructuring her unit for greater efficiency, less replication of efforts and greater impact. She hopes to have this completed by the end of November.
St. Thomas has also contracted with a vendor, Brightstarr, for an intranet that will improve internal communication and provide easier access to our other applications, such as Murphy and Blackboard. The intranet will help us all stay informed across our increasingly complex organization, so that we can stay One University.
This year Enrollment Management, under the direction of Dan Meyer, made some changes in both their recruiting efforts and application procedures. Perhaps the most significant change was adding the use of the Common Application for incoming undergraduate students. This led to a significant increase in the number of applications we received and allowed us to reduce the admit rate to the lowest level in St. Thomas history. The class of 2020 also had the highest ACT average (27) and GPA (3.60) for any incoming class.
Many of our graduate programs also are adjusting enrollment efforts. The School of Law, for example, saw a significant increase to their first-year admissions as a result of their robust recruitment activities.
Student debt has been on the minds of many of our administrators and trustees. Enrollment and Financial Aid is in the middle of implementing a campus-wide financial literacy effort designed to help students, their families, and even our alumni, make informed fiscal decisions.
These are just some of the more significant efforts currently underway to enhance the visibility of our academic excellence, a visibility that will lead to a robust student population. We know that under the continued work of Dan Meyer and Kymm Martinez, we will see many more successes in the years to come.