As St. Michael’s confronts diminishing enrollment, we applaud many of the school’s efforts — from hiring a new vice president for enrollment and marketing, to rebranding. Even the new rented purple bus is worth noting. Other efforts, however, don’t deliver. In an age where social media dominates the eye of the phone holder, the “Nominate a Knight” campaign is not enough.
Alums and current students are asked to “nominate a Knight,” or encourage a high school student to look towards St. Mike’s. We don’t think this is enough. And apparently, we’re not the only one. Searching #nominateaknight on Instagram, an empty page stares back. The “Nominate a Knight” movement is half-hearted, something that the marketing team put together in a fingers-crossed kind of way In reality, we’re not sure many students are willing to publicly serve as ambassadors for St. Mike’s. Being in college, there’s a struggle to keep close relationships with the best friends from high school, much less the freshman we merely smiled at on our way to class.
What truly feels like good marketing is not to nominate a knight, but instead, show WHY St. Mike’s is magical. Good marketing isn’t cheesy, but genuine. Scroll through our Instagram and smile at the photos of student athletes marching their way down Church Street as a part of Pride festivities; quotes from roommates and friends of their real St. Mike’s experiences; profiles of professors that have helped us grow over the years. These photos are the heart of St. Mike’s. A social media presence such as this, with interaction with their audience, is strong.
We need to use, exploit and expose, all of the things that are keeping us above water in order to attract more incoming students. Show students interacting with professors. Show friends laughing as they cook dinner together in a townhouse, run-down but alive with love, before they walk out to sit on their beat up patio chairs outside as they chat with their neighbors down the row. Take us on a live tour of the campus, to all of the cracks and crevices where we find peace throughout the day. These are the things that make St. Mikes real, and make us never want to leave.
As Cameron Smith ‘20 started his senior year, he piled even more on his plate by participating in the 27th annual Art Hop in the South End of Burlington, Vermont. Hundreds of artists participated in this event, contributing many different forms of art including mixed media, sculpture, photography, and digital art. Smith contributed to the show with six of his oil paintings, close-ups of faces in a realistic figurative style.
Before the launch, Smith said he was feeling some anxieties, not about his art being shown to the public, but about not having his art in his own hands. “People can like or dislike your work and that’s just art,” he said. But what he did worry about was the paintings getting damaged or stolen. Artists who chose to participate in the Art Hop have to register and rent the space the art will occupy. Before the event, the South End Arts and Business Association (SEABA), collects works from the registered artists. The artists can also participate in the juried show, which is a large collection of works gathered from artists who submitted their art in an open call.
Leading up to the show Smith was not informed of where his art would be featured, and this created a sense of anticipation.
“When I came Friday night I was super excited to find it, it was like a scavenger hunt almost.” His art was shown off of Howard Street, which is the hub of activity during the Art Hop. The Howard Space is a large building made of winding hallways, a multitude of stairs and about ten ways in and out, so finding Smith’s art was a scavenger hunt.
The 45 businesses participating in the Art Hop sprawled across the South End of Burlington, from City Market on Flynn Avenue to The Flynn Center for the Performing Arts on Main Street, therefore not knowing where to go could seem intimidating, but Smith had a positive outlook.
Smith started at Saint Michael’s College as an Environmental Studies major but became a double major as he began exploring art. “Sophomore year I took Foundations of Art with Will Mentor, and he saw what I was doing and said ‘Become an art major.’” If Smith had chosen another school he would not be where he is today, “Saint Mike’s felt like home.” Smith mentioned if he had gone to a bigger school he might have gotten lost in a sea of thousands of other students, and a professor may not have noticed him. Will Mentor described Smith as, “Visually literate. He has that ‘it’ factor that is not easy to describe. His work evades an easy reading,” said Mentor. “I admire his willingness to experiment.”
When Smith went to the Art Hop last year, he did not think about participating, but when he realized how close he was to being thrown into the real world this year, as a senior, he jumped on the opportunity to get exposure and experience showing his art. Brian Collier is another Art Professor who has experience displaying his work to the public. Collier is aware of the highs and lows of shows and says, “I have just done the best I can as his [Smith’s] professor to help him develop his vision and technique as an artist. I’ve also worked to help him develop skills to present himself and his work professionally.” Collier has hopes for Smith, along with all his other students. With Smith specifically Collier says, “ Cameron’s quiet determination has led to this achievement and I’m sure he has many more to come.”
When the Art Hop weekend came to a close Smith reflected, “There was a lot going on. Everybody was just super excited to just see art.” With this experience behind him, he is excited to see what the future holds. He does not see this show being his last, with anxieties of graduation coming up he says his goal is, “Trying to get my art out there as fast as possible and just build my resume so in the future I have this background I can build off of.”
His work is still being shown at 56 Howard Street, Burlington, Vermont until the end of September. To look at more of Smith’s art click the home button below.
While St. Michael’s College is a pretty accessible campus, there are things that can still be done to help improve the accessibility. Antonia Messuri, the Director of Academic Support Services here at the college, believes in taking it “one door at a time.”
This is a good place to start said Joel Ribout, associate director of Facilities,Planning and Construction. This year alone his team has already added in an automatic door opener to the mailroom, and are about to add one into the front doors of McCarthy Arts Center in the upcoming weeks.
In a perfect world Ribout would love to be able to buy more snow removal equipment, replace the walkways, and have two elevators in every building, so if one breaks they still have a working one.
Currently the school doesn’t have the budget, to help Ribout’s perfect world come to life. He said he’s doing what he can with the budget he has.
Renovations around campus aren’t the only things that can be done to help students with disabilities. Leslie Turner, Testing Center Coordinator, says it’s nice to give people the option to ask for help, such as asking if someone wants you to carry their bag or push their wheelchair. She recommended reaching out to students who you see that are struggling, to see if they need any help, and to make eye contact when addressing other students.
Patrick Standen, an instructor of philosophy, also had a message to share about accessibility. “If you remove the attitudinal barriers, you will remove the architectural barriers,” Standen said. He explained that if you change how you see the world and think about it, everything else follows. “If you believe people with disabilities have an equal right to be and have access to education and all those resources, then suddenly you will find the way to make it happen,” Standen said.
In a tucked away corner of the Durick library basement, hiding between cream colored shelves stretching far above my reach and filled with dust coated books and tired looking boxes, I found myself sitting in front of one especially tired looking box, labeled “St. Edmund.” Although St. Edmund died in 1240 near Pontigny, France, he remains at St. Michael’s in both spirit and in the flesh.
Relics, pieces of sentiment kept from a saint, can range from places a saint has visited, articles of clothing they have touched, or if you’re really lucky, parts of the saint themself. The archives play home to dozens of artifacts from yearbooks to old football trophies, but if you look hard enough, you can find pieces of flesh from St. Edmund himself, encased in layers of protective plastic and boxes, delicately preserved despite the hundreds of years since St. Edmund’s death.
“It’s a little piece of flesh, which we call a first class relic,” said Rev. David Theroux, S.S.E. “If it’s touched the body of a saint, it’s a second class relic. There’s a lot of second class relics out there – first class relics are more rare.”
Archivist Elizabeth Scott takes me through the rows of shelves, scattered with carefully lain journals and seemingly endless rows of folders thick with notes from faculty meetings collected over the decades. Scott’s eyes land on the box labelled “St. Edmund” and we find our way back to her work table. Delicately placing the box in front of me, Scott smiles as she begins to unveil the relics. The small, speck-sized pieces of St. Edmund’s body sit encased in beautifully detailed glass and velvet. One relic of St. Edmund that stands out – a cylinder-shaped container no bigger than my forearm, carries significantly larger pieces of flesh and underneath, a signature from a bishop stating it’s legitimacy.
“That one right there, that is Saint Edmund’s (skin) – that isn’t the oldest piece here, but it’s pretty old,” Scott said. “That is actually from his body, it’s skin and ribs.” The pieces of flesh are kept within glass and plastic containers, carefully keeping the frail pieces of pale skin preserved.
“From a religious study point of view, Edmund was pretty significant in terms of the development of spirituality,” Father David said. “Edmund was involved in resolving it and bringing it to a peaceful conclusion as archbishop of Canterbury. He was a great saint at the time.”
The relics have been collected over a number of years, however, one of the most memorable relics came to St. Michael’s in the 1950’s – Saint Edmund’s arm.
“The arm used to be on campus, and it went from France to America,” Scott said. “They had some new cloth made for it. They used to take the actual body (of the saint) on saints days and people would venerate it. The arm became detached. The arm had been separated for quite some time when the Edmundites sold Pontigny, and they got permission to bring that arm to America.”
“There’s all kinds of stories as to how the arm came off and how it got out of France,” Father David said. “We like to tell the story of one of our priests smuggling it out — that’s not the case, but it’s a good story. It was a time when the saints, relics or pieces of their bodies would be disengaged from the body and used as a relic someplace else. That seems to have been the case with Edmund, as there’s a whole set of relics in the archives here.”
Although in 2002 the arm found a new home in Mystic, Conn., it used to be kept in the chapel here on campus, on full display for anyone who wanted to pray to it.
“The arm was on campus through the late fifties early sixties,” Scott said. “It was in the chapel. People could go in and kneel and venerate the arm.”
The relics now kept in the library are available to students to view. Sign up for an appointment through the St. Michael’s College website under the “Library” tab.
Many students think of the natural area, a protected piece of land across Route 15 from Hoehl, as a secretive, off-limits space. Declan McCabe hopes that a new art exhibit, slowly melting into the earth along the nature paths, will encourage students to explore the land.
What is art? Can we challenge the ideals of art? These are questions artist Nancy Winship Milliken wants you to walk away with after experiencing her installation “Earth Press Project: Dispatch from Gaia” in the Saint Michael’s College’s natural area.
Her project is a collaboration with professors Declan McCabe, Brian Collier, and Vermont Poet Laureate Chard deNiord. Five stanzas of deNiord’s poem “Dispatch from Gaia” have been imprinted into blocks made of clay and other materials from the Champlain basin, baked by the sun. Throughout one month, these blocks will break down and return to the natural landscape.
“Mother’s singing to us now in a loud-soft voice, ‘Put your ear to the air and ground and sea,’” the blocks once read. Walking down to the sculpture’s exhibit, “Mother” is the only legible piece of art left after weeks of rain and scorching heat.
“We extracted the earth and now it will dissolve back into the earth,” Milliken explained, explaining the meaning of her piece.
When approached by Collier about a project that promotes sustainability, Milliken, who typically conducts site-specific work, was inspired by the sights and sounds of the natural area surrounded by local flora and fauna.
“After walking the property with Brian [Collier] and Declan [McCabe], the idea of the transformation of the land, and how changes can happen, I thought should be represented in the work,” Milliken said.
Milliken’s “earth press” approach works through baking the clay and imprinting the words using through pressing in old typeface.
“If you follow through from beginning to end this particular form of art is extremely sustainable and is literally designed to go back into nature,” said McCabe, who has a lead role in stewarding the natural area and emphasizing sustainability. “Literally if you go down and look, it is falling apart. The rain is just taking it apart grain by grain and it won’t need to be removed because the weather will literally put it back into the ground. And because it’s native clay, you’re not risking bringing any invasive species in with it,” he said.
Milliken mentioned the importance of the collaboration between her, Collier, McCabe, students, and other artisans. “One of the outtakes is collaboration and how accessible we are not just by ourselves, and that this project was made with interns and other artisans. We all came together for this project and we’re sort of combining poetry and sculpture and natural resources.”
Milliken said her piece represents the ephemerality of the earth and our thoughts. She typically doesn’t want the viewer to take something home with them. In other words, she doesn’t want them to anticipate a specific outcome after viewing the art. “I hope it is open-ended and that there’s thought about not only our earth and vulnerability of our earth and of our thoughts and words, but also what is art?”
“You know this is not a stone sculpture or a steel sculpture that will last forever. It’s challenging the notions of art,” she said.
You can see the time-lapse of the project’s return to Earth on October 3 in the McCarthy Art Gallery along with a reading by Chard DeNiord.
September 6- 8 rang in Burlington’s 27th annual art hop. Artists from all around huddled together downtown to display their art and give curious roamers a chance to see inside studios, for a unique experience behind-the-scenes of artists’ work. Students of St. Michael’s had the opportunity to attend the Art Hop and capture the magic behind it.
It’s a Saturday night in September and you just finished your dinner and first White Claw Hard Seltzer. You down another one and bump trap music in your living room to prepare to go out. You shove three seltzers and a random Bud Light from your fridge in your bag and head for the 100’s with a few friends. You spot more of your pals gathered on the outskirts of the mob and take out a seltzer to chug as you join the conversation about how many first years are out tonight. Cans litter the ground all around so you toss your can behind you and think, “No biggie, someone will pick it up.”
For 16 years that someone was facility and grounds staff member Barry Von Sleet on Sunday mornings. “On a good day everything is picked up by 9 a.m., but sometimes that is how long it takes to just clean up the 300s,” Von Sleet said while he grabbed litter from the 300’s field on a recent Sunday at 6:30 a.m. He has worked almost every Sunday since he was around 20 years old picking up trash on Saint Michael’s campus.
Starting at 6 a.m, he lugs around a gray trash barrel and uses a picker-upper claw to snag the trash without touching it. He deals with beer cans, bottles, Einstein’s boxes and miscellaneous litter until the grounds are litter free and it seems as if no parties took place just a few hours before.
Even though there are four recycling bins out in the 300’s alone, they remain pitifully empty with garbage surrounding them. Do students care about recycling their cans, bottles and containers when they’re drunk?
“The 100s were horrible Friday night, we were expecting to see trash in the morning but when we passed by it was completely clean,” said Iset Maldonado ‘21, a member of the baseball team. “Most friends probably toss their cans,” he added, but some of them occasionally collect the cans to redeem them at a local redemption center for money back.
If giving the facilities staff some time back on their weekends or participating in making conscious efforts to save our environment doesn’t motivate you to dispose of your recyclables properly, perhaps the monetary gain just a brief walk down the road will.
On a recent Sunday, this reporter, with the help of two friends, picked up recyclable cans and bottles from the 300s and 100s. Even though Von Sleet had already been working to clean the grounds, we ended up with three full trash bags of recyclables. This later turned into $15 at the redemption center behind the Beverage Warehouse down Route 15.
Una Langran ’21 understands the effects of nicotine and marijuana, and even though she vapes nicotine, she doesn’t trust dab pens because of the many side effects of bootlegged THC oils. “I get a pretty intense cough after inhaling those products,” Langram said.
So far, there have been six deaths and 400 reported lung-illnesses connected to vaping cannabis. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) declared a warning for teenagers to stop using street or “bootlegged” cannabis and E-Cigarettes.
Despite this news, many Saint Michael’s students and young people across the country continue this habit.
According to the NewYork Times, diseases have occurred from inhalation of unknown chemical droplets created from vaporization of marijuana and can create lung inflammation. Experts have identified the inhalation of vitamin E as a possible culprit.
Experts are also identifying “lipoid pneumonia”, a dangerous disease that develops as a consequence from the vaporization of marijuana.
“I can tell you that we have seen an increasing number of students who vape and who are trying to quit, some successfully and some not sucessfully,” said Bergeron Wellness Center Director, Mary Masson in an email. Regardless of the substances’ popularity, health experts can’t prepare for the future of lung-problems based off of unknown chemicals each vape oil contains.
“I see a lot of asthma in people who smoke marijuana regularly, and it’s surprising how many people think marijuana is safe,” said Emergency Medicine Physician at UVM Medical Center, Laurel Plante in an email.
“The recent cases of serious lung illnesses and deaths are associated with vaping black-market cannabis oils; don’t use these products!” said professor of psychology, Ari Kirshenbaum warned in an email. Kirshenbaum is currently working on a study focused on the effects of nicotine psychological processes.
“I don’t think anyone really cares about the dab pen issues, people are mostly focusing on nicotine,” said Ainsley Mclaughlin ’21. This may be true for many students on campus, however Pulmonary and Critical Care Physician at UVM Medical Center, Prema R. Memon voiced her experience in an email. “Vaping devices contain a variety of chemicals that we do not know what long-term exposure would do to the body.
“Vaping can affect the heart by increasing adrenaline levels (leads to high blood pressure), lungs by causing airway damage (asthma or COPD) or lung tissue damage (scarring in the lungs, increased cells in the lungs or respiratory failure and death), increased risk of infections in the lungs (pneumonia),” Memon said. Over the past year at UVM Medical Center there have been 2-3 cases of reported lung-diseases that did not respond to routine treatment as a result of vaping.
“It makes me sad to see the kids and adults who believe they are better than science and continue to use these deadly products.”
Amanda Black, Nurse at Mass General Hospital
“We don’t really know if vaping marijuana (due to chemicals in the liquid/device) make vaping potentially equally as carcinogenic as marijuna. Unfortunately, I think only time will tell,” said Memon.
“It makes me nervous and sad to see the amount of kids and adults who believe they are better than science and continue to purchase and use these dangerous and deadly products,” wrote Mass General Hospital Nurse Amanda Black in an email. “People who vape are breathing in chemicals that scientists and medical professionals aren’t entirely sure what compounds are within.”
“The known effects are horrible,” said Masson, “but the fact that we as medical professionals have no idea what else it could cause in the future is concerning, because we can’t prepare for it. We can try to prevent it and we might not be able to treat it.”
When classes began in late August, Saint Michael’s College, like many higher education institutions across the nation, welcomed an incoming class that fell short of expectations, along with an ongoing budget deficit.
President Lorraine Sterritt declined to comment on the number of students in the class of 2023, explaining that the school wants to avoid having multiple different numbers published. The final number will be released October 15 as part of a census that will be sent to the federal government. Sterritt did say, however, that the school year started with fewer students than she would have liked.
Additionally, Sterritt said the school’s deficit for Fiscal Year 2019 is projected to be around $2 million.
Declining enrollment has been a trend at St. Michael’s in recent years. In 2014, 2,065 full-time undergraduates were enrolled at the school, highlighted by 610 first-year and transfer students, according to statistics obtained from the college’s Institutional Research. Four years later, in 2018, enrollment had dropped by 396, with only 1,669 undergraduates, including an incoming class of 478 students.
Declining enrollment isn’t just a problem for St. Michael’s. The population of high school students in the Northeast, where Saint Michael’s recruits students, is decreasing. From 2010 to 2017, the number of high school students in the Northeast declined by about 200,000, according to the United States Census Bureau. And the numbers will keep going down.
The Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education predicts a decrease from 610,000 Northeast high school graduates in 2017 to 562,500 in 2031. This leads to increased competition between schools to recruit from the limited pool of students. The number of high school graduates in the foreseeable future will continue to decrease, a factor colleges are watching closely.
“The days are gone when you can lay back and have students come to your door,” Sterritt said. For St. Michael’s, this reality has evoked a need for more advertising and recruitment. Sterritt mentioned that the school is advertising on public radio, television, billboards, the Boston transit system, and the school’s newly rented coach bus, sporting a bright purple knight logo.
Sterritt has also promoted new academic programs and a new Center for the Environment as investments intended to attract prospective students.
With most of our students coming from the Northeast, the school is looking to expand recruitment both domestically and internationally. According to this academic year’s Admission & Enrollment Profile, 74 percent of St. Michael’s students come from New England, including 31 percent from Massachusetts and 15 percent from Vermont. However, from 2017 to 2018, Vermont saw more than a 10 percent population decrease in people under the age of 18, ranking the state last in the nation. Massachusetts decreased by more than three percent, according to an analysis of census population estimates.
“We are certainly looking towards places that the population is not having a dramatic decrease as it is in New England,” said Michael Stefanowicz, director of admission. This pipeline development method is one of the ways the school hopes to target the right prospective students. The school has also employed a search program that helps target students with SAT, ACT, and survey question responses that match our general student profile.
Some staff was laid off this summer and positions vacated by retirements have remained unfilled. However, the Admission Office has added two regional representatives, according to Stefanowicz. One is based in Worcester, Mass. to sustain reach in the primary market, while another is based in Annapolis, Md. in an attempt to build a secondary market. Additionally, the school has two international admission staff, including Kevin Spensley, who has recently spent time recruiting in Japan.
St. Michael’s currently has representation from 37 countries, according to the Admission & Enrollment profile.
“We can’t be this place that’s just up in Northern Vermont. We have to be a place that is global in perspective,” said Kristin McAndrew, the new vice president for enrollment and marketing.
McAndrew, whose first meeting on-campus upon the start of her position was with President Sterritt, was told to write a “new and robust” international recruitment plan. McAndrew was most recently the director of admission at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. She has dealt with similar declining enrollment as director of admission at Saint Mary’s College, as well as nationally-declining enrollment for MBA programs during her time at Notre Dame.
“What made me choose to come to St. Michael’s is the fact that every member of this community that I’ve interviewed with is committed to being a part of the solution… it’s a campus problem that the whole community is going to tackle together,” said McAndrew.
One of McAndrew’s new relationships will be with Institutional Advancement to garner alumni support. She said the work of the two offices are “inextricably linked,” as a better connection with alumni can bring in more money and help spread the word to prospective students.
Why choose college?
In the eyes of a prospective student, tuition is a major factor. According to the College Board, the average tuition and fees for a private, non-profit, four-year college rose to $35,830 in 2018-19. According to the St. Michael’s website, tuition for the 2019-2020 school year is $45,050. However, with most students receiving financial aid, the 2017-2018 average net price for full-time beginning undergraduates was $31,323, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In that same year, 1,754 undergraduates received grants or scholarship aid, totaling over $42 million, averaged at $24,153 per student.
The popularity of alternative, often cheaper options such as trade schools, has grown as a result of escalating college costs. The U.S. Department of Education reported a rise from about 9.6 million trade school students in 1999 to about 16 million in 2014.
Given these trends, institutions must prove to students why they should invest in a college degree.
“I’m confident college continues to be the very best investment somebody can make in their future. We need to really be able to show and tell what you get for investing in yourself and attending a place like St. Michael’s,” Stefanowicz said.
Institutions must also be able to retain the students they enroll. In 2018, St. Michael’s had an 84 percent retention rate, according to Institutional Research. This means that 84 percent of incoming students enrolled in the fall of 2017 returned in the fall of 2018. By comparison, Middlebury College had a retention rate of 96 percent, and the University of Vermont had a retention rate of 87 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
In the past year, Southern Vermont College, Green Mountain College, and the College of St. Joseph all struggled to meet financial demands with their accreditor, the New England Commission on Higher Education, and ultimately closed their doors. According to Inside Higher Ed, Southern Vermont had a deficit of around $2 million, approximately the same as St. Michael’s. The school had to lower enrollment numbers and made the decision to shut down.
“I think it’s unfair to compare ourselves to [Green Mountain College] or to [Southern Vermont College] because they really are in a completely different experience,” said Stefanowicz, noting endowment, the composition of the student body, and a more rural location as factors that set these schools apart from St. Michael’s. According to the St. Michael’s College website, our endowment is approximately $85 million, compared to endowments of less than $4 million for each of the three schools that closed. Despite this advantage for St. Michael’s, other Vermont institutions, including Norwich University ($209 million), the University of Vermont ($405 million) and Middlebury College ($1.1 billion) have much larger endowments.
Sterritt referenced the new branding language regarding doing well and doing good when she talked about the school’s future, noting that many colleges are facing financial challenges and must innovate.
“For Saint Michael’s College,” she said, “ that is preparing students to do well in their chosen fields and inspiring them to do good in the world. There will always be a market for that.”
In an effort to attract prospective students to St. Michael’s College, the administration has begun a rebranding campaign to change the face of the school and adopt a new approach to marketing.
The goal is to bring enrollment to a sustainable level that gives flexibility for future investment, said Director of Marketing and Communications Alex Bertoni.
The marketplace has shifted over time, leaving private liberal arts colleges in need of adjustment and our college is no exception, Bertoni said.
“The prior brand and messaging was what we call ‘I like St. Mikes’. It was a time when a lot of popular media was talking about happiness quotients,” Bertoni said. The messaging emphasized a welcoming community in the hopes that prospective students felt comfortable here.
“All those things are true, but the market shifted over the course of time to where families are questioning the value of an education and what you get out of it, so that message was not working in the marketplace anymore,” Bertoni said.
While some colleges rebrand to reflect institutional changes, Bertoni said that St. Michael’s rebranding is focussing more on marketing strategies that appeal to a population that is more conscious about return on investment.
“We’re really still a liberal arts, Catholic, private residential college.We have a lot of great outcomes and things we can point to related to return on investment and we really need to highlight those,” Bertoni said.
Along with a new marketing approach, there’s a “look” throughout the school’s new visuals, including a new coach bus with updated school graphics. “We’re in the process of revamping all our admission materials [and] we’re also going to be changing all the banners on campus in the next month or so and those will carry the new brand and the new message as well as some of the new graphics.”
In general, however, Bertoni said that things like the logo and the school’s primary colors are unchanged.
The use of Founder’s cupola will be featured in some pieces.
“There’s no question the whole college industry is facing some serious challenges,” said Business Administration and Accounting Professor Rob Letovsky.
The challenge St. Michael’s faces is a positioning challenge, Letovsky said, explaining it as about where the school stands in the customer’s brain. “I get it, you don’t want to look like something you’re not and you don’t want to look like something that’s not relevant to young people, I get that, but the most important thing is positioning.”
As the vice chair of the Board of Trustees, Rev. Marcel Rainville, S.S.E. ‘67 has lived through many changed during his tenure at St. Michael’s, but expresses optimism about the future. He said that the Edmundites were involved during early stages of this rebranding stages.
“We felt very satisfied with the articulation of what we thought were our values going forward and the incorporation of theose values into the branding process,” Marcel said.
For Letovsky, it’s not just about convincing the public about academics. Certain introductory courses, he said, can be found all across the country. It’s more about convincing people of the holistic value in a four-year, liberal arts degree from extracurricular programs to the Career Advancement and Alumni Center. “There are a lot of people out there, not just companies, [but] politicians, foundations questioning whether we’ve over emphasized four-year degrees,” Letovsky said.
“It’s not like we have to make up stuff here. We’re doing a lot of the things that we should be doing, but we just have to package it together and we’re starting to do that,” Letovsky said.
The school is also attempting to adapt in a competitive marketplace. And those changes will be marketed, Bertoni said.
“A new Center for the Environment is going to be launched soon and that’s a way to encapsulate all the things we do related to the environment and also to talk to students who are interested,” Bertoni said. New academic programs include health sciences, introduced last year and criminology, which was just approved.
For Bertoni, it’s also about spreading the school’s message through a new advertising campaign in key demographic regions, including Vermont, New Hampshire and most notably Boston. “That’s going to be a comprehensive ad campaign to drive students to visit campus for our fall events,” Bertoni said. The campaign will be launched within the coming weeks.
Here, new messages about leadership and exploration are communicated, with sayings such as “If not for Saint Michael’s” and the notion of doing well at the school, but also doing good for others.
Letovsky said, “There must be a very tight connection between how you come across and what you are. It’s like greenwashing. If it’s true, it’s great. If it’s bullshit, people ultimately find out.”
Bertoni declined to share the cost of the rebranding effort, but with the time and money spent to evolve our school, will it be enough? “Time will tell,” Bertoni said.
“I think the school is doing a lot in terms of addressing a very difficult marketplace, but I think predictions of the demise of liberal arts education is premature.”