Re-Naming "Hometown U" University of South Carolina Beaufort Assumes a New Role

By McGee, Lynn W. | Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies, February 15, 2015 | Go to article overview

Re-Naming "Hometown U" University of South Carolina Beaufort Assumes a New Role


McGee, Lynn W., Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies


Provide student teams with specific assignments prior to the class discussion to move them beyond focusing on the "best name" to designing the branding/change process. Teams might represent different stakeholder audiences, list that audience's concerns, and represent them in the ensuing class discussion. Each team must propose a new name for USCB and a process to build support for that name with all stakeholder audiences.

INSTRUCTORS NOTE

This case considers a re-branding/name change for a public university. The University of South Carolina Beaufort's change in role and mission, its enrollment, programming and facilities growth and its challenging financial future are depicted. The student joins the discussion at a key decision point: should this university attempt a name change now and what will be the key elements in the change process?

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TEACHING APPROACHES

Students will want to focus on "what name will we choose" and instructors can pursue this issue, using the additional data and discussion questions suggested below. In fact, one strategy would be to give students the naming data Appendix before class, as part of the case problem. Much more interesting are the issues of the changing environment in higher education and the numerous stakeholders (students, faculty, system leaders, board members, legislators, mayors, community leaders, donors) who must be won over for the change to actually happen and be successful. Making this level of change in a service industry to which people are emotionally tied-without losing key supporter groups and while navigating media pressures-will be the standard against which the proposals for change are measured-not just "time to market" and logo design.

The case extends students' branding experience into a nonprofit setting, where consensus is valued and the perfect business case for change can fail without sensitivity to the political environment. Students may be frustrated by the fuzzy decision process. However, as Gill (2011) argues so well, "where substantial complexity is present in the system being studied, the case method is a valid approach-and possibly the most valid approach available-for exploring and learning about it." (p. 49). Gill would classify the case as a discussion/design case, requiring analysis, synthesis and strategic choice.

Advance Assignments

Giving student teams specific assignments will be necessary to move from the desire to choose the "best name" to designing political support for the branding decision-and the branding process itself. Groups assigned to develop background information on "the changing macro environment," "the changing higher education environment," "financial model of higher education," and "university governance" can bring these perspectives to class to broaden and deepen the discussion.

Alternatively, student teams might be assigned stakeholder group to represent-and to design a communication process for that set of stakeholders. In the ensuing class discussion, each group must remain "in character," representing that stakeholder group throughout the discussion. Additional materials to facilitate these assignments are included in this note.

Critical Aspects that Solutions must Consider

The case describes a conflict in terms-an entrepreneurial university-seeking to grow within a traditional state university system. USCB completely changed its role and mission from a 2 year campus on eight acres to a "full service" university. The combination of rapid growth and declining state appropriations and increasing competition for students demands marketing leadership. Re-naming this new baccalaureate university on a new campus to re-introduce it to both current and new markets may be the most efficient and effective way USCB can communicate its new role and mission.

Students will tend to skip over the funding source information (Figure 6). But these numbers ultimately will build the case for taking the re-naming risk. …

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