I. Teaching and Learning
II. Student Development
III. Human Resources
VI. Financial Resources
V. Identity Goal: Articulate a shared understanding of Illinois Wesleyan’s identity as a residential
liberal arts college with professional schools and programs.
Strategy A: Developing a Shared Understanding of Identity. To lead to a more unified understanding of our identity as a community and as an
institution, undertake a serious discussion among faculty, staff and students to locate
points of intersection and to establish a shared understanding of the university's
present identity and the identity to which it aspires, as articulated in the University's
Mission and Vision Statements; such discussion at the department, program, and school
levels should clarify their contributions to the aspired identity as well as define
"fine teaching" and "rigorous scholarship/ discovery and creation of knowledge and
art" as they pertain to the institution's internal identity.
The University's Vision Statement calls for IWU students to be "talented, intellectually
curious… who have a strong motivation to pursue the best education that the University
has to offer" and for faculty members who are "excellent teachers, mentors, and advisors,
[and] who are actively engaged in the discovery and creation of knowledge and art."
The Identity Work Group identified a need for serious faculty discussion in order
to understand better what fine teaching and rigorous scholarship mean, to define the
relationship between the two, and to outline the expectations of faculty to accomplish
The Identity Work Group concluded that because there appears to be a lack of a unified
sense of identity on the part of the University faculty, and perhaps among other internal
audiences (students and staff members), the first phase of an Identity Plan should
focus on fostering a unified sense of how faculty members, students, and staff members
see themselves in relation to each other and the University as a whole. The development
of a unified understanding of how individuals and groups reflect on and get inspiration
from the University's Mission and Vision statements is recognized as having its own
intrinsic value that is separate from its role in marketing the University to outsiders.
We see a unified sense of identity as necessary for enhancing individual and group
morale, strengthening relationships among members of the campus community, and clarifying
our sense of purpose as we move forward. A rigorous series of discussions with students,
staff, and faculty (at the department, program, and school levels) should focus on
how they see their work, activities, and experiences relating to the Mission and Vision
Statements. Possible topics for such discussion include:
What is the ideal relationship between the liberal arts and the professional schools
and programs? How should differing expectations for May Term be negotiated? What
is the role of information technology at a residential college? How should expectations
of faculty for teaching and research or artistic creation be clarified? How should
Illinois Wesleyan balance its regional commitments and national aspirations? Who
are our peer institutions?
Strategy B: Conducting Identity Research. Use research to identify and explore identity issues and to form the foundation for
an Identity Communications Program.
The essential foundation of an Identity Plan is solid research that goes beyond the
descriptive statistics that are currently available. Involvement of an outside researcher
or firm will be essential in conducting surveys, focus groups, and personal interviews
with key constituencies including IWU students, faculty, and staff. External audience
research is also essential to gather qualitative and quantitative data that reflect
targeted external audiences' understanding of the University's assets, deficits, and
core values--as articulated in the University's Mission and Vision Statements. Reports
on the research data and their interpretations should be shared, as appropriate, with
internal and external audiences from whom feedback will be solicited.
One preliminary question to be addressed before research begins involves determining
the geographic parameters. Do we want a truly national survey that is large enough
to also produce statistically valid findings for smaller geographic subsets, e.g.,
Illinois and the five contiguous states or Illinois alone? Or should these smaller
geographic areas be the entire universe of the study?
Strategy C: Crafting an Identity Communications Program. Using a collaborative, inclusive effort involving all key IWU internal constituencies,
develop and implement an Identity Communications Program that addresses all key IWU
audiences, both internal and external; the Program should include specific channels
to reach each of these audiences and identification of individuals or departments
within the University who will be responsible for communicating with these audiences.
A university by its very nature is a complex organization, with many stakeholders
on the campus, within the broader university “family,” and certainly numerous external
audiences. The development of an Identity Communications Program must reflect that
complexity and the breadth of the stakeholder group.
While development of the Identity Communications Program should be overseen by the
University Public Relations (PR) office, the process must involve representation from
all key constituencies and especially must include those University staff and faculty
who are, by the nature of their work, serving as University communicators, even if
they are not part of the PR staff (admissions, athletics recruitment, development,
department chairs, etc.). The process should draw upon the experience and expertise
of our to-be-named Vice President for Public Relations. The process should include
partnering with departments/schools to develop communications programs for their current
and prospective students and families, and these programs should build on identity
Strategy D: Identifying Core Messages. Using the data collected from internal and external audiences, craft a set of core
messages used throughout all University communications, including communications from
departments and from individuals representing the University, as well as internal/external
channels such as the University website, publications, media relations activities,
and internal communications.
In order to build a clear, articulated identity for IWU, it is important that the
University focus on a limited number of core messages that describe and define the
essential attributes that, in their totality, present a distinctive position for IWU
in comparison with other institutions in our competitive universe. Ideally, this
would include no more than five key distinctive features and five key “personality”
trait features that would be woven into all University communications–not just admissions,
but also athletics, individual departmental communications, development and fund-raising
communications, etc. These messages become everyone’s messages.
It is critically important that the messages build out from the Mission Statement,
Vision Statement and the “shared identity” process described in Strategy A above,
and that the attributes of IWU are translated into benefits statements that are relevant
to key audiences, with both an intellectual and emotional appeal.
It should be noted here that Strategy C under the Financial Resources planning goal
stresses the need for financial aid policies that ensure accessibility for qualified
students; although final determination of the core messages must await the internal
and external research findings recommended above, it seems likely that one core message
to prospective students should clearly emphasize the University’s affordability because
of its financial aid programs.
Strategy E: Focusing on Critical Communications Channels. Because of their disproportionately greater impact in reaching many of the University’s
key audiences, devote special attention within the Identity Communications Program
to the University website, the media relations program, and internal communications.
The IWU website is our window to the world beyond the campus. It shapes the perceptions
of all members of the University community as well as prospective students, faculty,
donors and other key audiences. The University should create and maintain a site
that reflects the University's core messages in a way that is visually compelling
and reflective of the look and feel of the University, its personality, and its culture.
The IWU web site should be competitive with websites at other leading U.S. colleges.
To achieve this goal, individual departments and program websites should reflect the
quality of the University website, sharing some consistency while also being designed
to reflect the individuality of each department, program, and school. These websites
should include content that explains how departments, programs, and schools reflect
the University’s Mission and Vision Statements. An effective navigation system is
Because media coverage is a second communications channel that reaches all of our
key audiences, the Identity Communications Program should also include a special focus
on using local, regional and national media to convey information about IWU that reinforces
our core messages.
One of the strategies under the Human Resources (HR) planning goal (see HR Strategy
F) addresses the need for enhanced internal communications, and the University communications
team should work collaboratively with the HR team to design programs to meet this
need. The Identity Communications Program should also include methods for enhancing
internal communications, including the distribution of findings that are generated
through research conducted as part of the Identity Plan.
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I. Teaching and Learning
II. Student Development
III. Human Resources
VI. Financial Resources