Senate, administration discuss brand imaging

DURING ITS PAST MEETING, THE SENATE DISCUSSED Rensselaer’s branding with the vice president for strategic communications and external relations (file photo).

On February 27, Grand Marshal Paul Ilori ’17 opened the Student Senate with committee reports. Those reports began with Rules & Elections Committee Chairperson David Raab ’19 who recounted that campaigning would begin on Tuesday at 9 am and that R&E had held its first information session. Following Raab, Student Government Communications Chairperson Ellie Mees ’18 continued by stating that the committee is currently working to update the Senate, Executive Board, and Class Council websites with current contact information and photos. The SGC committee also reported that more members of the Executive Board were present at the prior committee meeting and that it would continue reaching out to Executive Board members to attend.

Following SGC, Academic Affairs Committee Chairperson Varun Rao ’18 discussed progress on the petition “Make Career Fair Day a Student Holiday,” in which the committee is meeting with Professor Schadler in order to discuss career fair day excuses from classes. In addition, Rao hopes to further discuss the academic misconduct policy in which he stated that the administration, overall, has been very receptive to the changes suggested by the AAC.

Facilities and Services Chairperson Austin Miller ’17 reported that a new water bottle filling station was recently installed in the Armory, and has since been used to fill over 1,700 water bottles. Following Miller, Student Life Committee Chairperson Justin Etzine ’18 declared that he has been in continued discussions with Director of Public Safety Jerry Matthews regarding a pilot program which he intends to launch sometime this semester to allow for multiple points of entry into on-campus dormitories. In addition, Etzine’s project to allow for more student use of the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center is currently being benchmarked as well as undergoing further research.

Following committee reports, Vice President for Strategic Communications Richie Hunter led a discussion in the Student Senate regarding recent accomplishments in RPI’s branding, web communications, and steps being taken to reduce miscommunication between Rensselaer students and administration. To begin, Hunter stated that Rensselaer is currently contracting out to the Thorburn Group, a marketing and brand consulting company, to try to reevaluate the RPI brand and get input from students, faculty members, and alumni. At the moment, the Strategic Communications and External Relations, in partnership with the Lally School of Management, has conducted 50 focus groups with faculty and staff as well as had over 500 students participate in branding surveys and discussions. Strategic Communications plans to shortly hold an additional 10 to 15 focus groups for alumni regarding Rensselaer’s brand.

Hunter noted that the goal of the rebranding as well as prior branding and marketing efforts is to “get us to the point where where when we speak about Rensselaer it goes beyond what we do—it goes to why it matters.” Hunter hopes to develop a more emotional connection to Rensselaer’s brand image in order to further motivate and engage alumni, students, prospective students, and faculty. In addition, Hunter explained that branding is necessary in encouraging discussion amongst local, state, and federal officials so they are aware of research and educational efforts at the Institute that could potentially benefit from research grants, partnerships, or contracts.

Hunter concluded by discussing the need to synchronize Rensselaer’s brand en-masse, including through online communications and social media through Rensselaer’s website. At the moment, Hunter has set the ambitious goal to have the entire Rensselaer homepage and linking sites be updated to a modern, synchronic style by this fall.