Jesuit. Personal. Powerful. How does Fairfield University’s marketing platform measure up?

To find out, a market analysis and comprehensive institutional research findings were released to the Fairfield community Friday, April 21.

University President Fr. Jeffrey von Arx’s strategic vision for the university includes a new marketing initiative. Lipman Hearne ‘ Associates (LH’A), a Chicago-based higher education marketing firm, was hired to guide this initiative.

After working on the project’s first phase, LH’A presented its results to more than 60 people in the Dolan School of Business dining room.

This is part of the “development and execution of an aggressive and sophisticated marketing initiative,” von Arx wrote in an e-mail invitation for the event.

The list of potential guests did not include the general student population.

LH’A said that the goals of the research are to articulate and balance the various missions of the university and to enrich the student population.

The firm analyzed various university stakeholders to gauge what criteria define a top university and where Fairfield ranks in that category. It found that top universities should have faculty commitment, a strong academic reputation and motivated, hardworking students.

There must also be financial aid, school spirit and involvement opportunities. “Preparedness” – how well a university prepares students for the real world – is also a key factor.

How does the university fit into this big picture? Fairfield was found strong in its integrated learning environment (internships, study abroad, etc.), the campus community, having a strong faculty and involved alumni, its Jesuit identity and an overall positive reputation.

LH’A noticed some “challenges” to the university, as well. For example, it observed a division between the university and the outside community, along with concerns about location and lack of diversity.

Data was also collected from internal audiences (faculty, staff and current students) and external audiences (alumni, competitor groups, adult learners, high school guidance counselors and prospective students and their parents) through surveys and interviews. The perceptions of both audiences often differed.

Internal audiences often noted a lack of school spirit, which was not as apparent to external audiences. Also, Fairfield alumni who graduated in or before 1980 described a higher level of school spirit than alumni from more recent years.

According to internal audiences, the overall campus environment and job outcome after graduation were Fairfield’s most attractive features. Both audiences disliked Fairfield’s limited access to activities and the disconnection between campus and the beach.

Leading characteristics associated with the Fairfield University personality, according to LH’A, are: intelligent, hardworking, friendly, supportive and ethical. Internal audiences and graduates after 1980 often added preppy and traditional.

The presentation also examined Fairfield University’s present brand position “Jesuit. Personal. Powerful.” LH’A said the Jesuit message may be unclear to prospective students and may not always be “connected back to value.”

“This marketing initiative,” said von Arx in the e-mail, “will be critically important in our efforts to clearly communicate to our prospective students, their parents, alumni and others the added value of a Fairfield education.”

The establishment of an improved brand platform to form an integrated marketing plan is the next step in this initiative. The research that has been released thus far will be available to the public on the school’s website as of Monday.

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