New marketing initiatives to keep WMU relevant

As the world around Western Michigan University continues to rapidly advance and become increasingly demanding, the University has recognized the need for creative change.

The number of graduates from Michigan public high schools who go onto public universities has been declining since 2008, the Michigan Association of State Universities reports. One potential factor for this decline could be tuition increases as a result of changes in national and state public policies over the last 20 years.

WMU has increased tuition by 31 percent in the last decade, a trend seen among 15 other Michigan universities.

To maintain the integrity and value of a university education, the Office of Marketing and Strategic and Communications, formerly known as the Office of University Relations, has implemented initiatives that are meant to keep the university relevant, and provide distinct opportunities for students.

“These changes need to be relevant and rare,” Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Communications Tony Proudfoot said. “By that I mean we need to be distinctive in a way that is attractive to students, faculty, employers, and city officials. We need something that you can only get here at Western.”

Since he began his position as vice president in June, so far the office of marketing and strategic communication has discontinued the print publication, Western News, a newspaper that was distributed to faculty and staff.

After 40 years, Western News released its last edition on Oct. 25.

Instead, Proudfoot said that news communication among faculty and staff is going entirely digital.

“This is ultimately about freeing up resources to help us communicate more effectively with the campus,” Proudfoot said. “This is not only meant to help with faculty and staff, but also students through electronic means. Much of what is in Western News either is or could be communicated much more quickly electronically.”

To make the distribution of news more efficient without sacrificing accuracy, Proudfoot said that faculty and staff from all areas of the university, who have been trained in or have a background with communication, will be able to publish announcements and articles for the rest of the university to read.

“Let’s say the engineering department wants people to know about a certain event,” Proudfoot said. “They can quickly write something up and publish it to one-stop-shop online with richer content and more visuals.”

As the first-ever vice president of the marketing and strategic communications office, Proudfoot said that his role is about facilitating conversation about what WMU will look like in the next 10, 15 or 25 years.

“My position is brand new,” Proudfoot said. “I am ultimately responsible of me, myself and my team with the goal of positioning the university to be more competitive and to attract bright minds.”

Proudfoot says that he does not have preconceived notions, and instead wants to work collaboratively with university community members to come up with ideas on how to improve WMU.

On Nov. 28 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Dec. 2 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., the office of marketing and strategic communications will be having meetings in the north ballroom in the Bernhard Center.

These meetings are open to the public and will be discussing new ideas for how to improve the University’s future.

Proudfoot encourages anyone from the community to attend these meetings and share any thoughts or ideas with members from the department.

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