Luther reflects in preparation for the next strategic plan

Kelao Charmaine Neumbo, Staff Writer

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Students, faculty, staff, alums, and community members partook in an internal process that consisted of a series of forums, interviews, and surveys during the summer of 2018. The process provided an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the college, as well as an evaluation of Luther’s brand as a liberal arts institution. The studies also revealed challenges to Luther’s business model, as well shortcomings of the college’s brand. These results will be used in the creation of the 2018-19 strategic plan.

Since President Paula J. Carlson appointed Aimee Viniard-Weideman as Vice President for Marketing and Communications in early September 2017, Viniard-Weideman has played a leading role in the process of identifying a set of college priorities as a bridge to the comprehensive process that will produce the next strategic plan. According to Viniard-Weideman, these processes are costly for quantitative research in higher education institutions.

“That type of quantitative work is something that is very expensive and most places, when they are doing brand work, have to decide how much of that they can actually afford to do,” Viniard-Weideman said.

She also explained how fortunate Luther is to have these expenses covered.

“At the time that we were looking at this, one of our alums, Rolf Wulfsberg (‘69), a brand analyst with one of the largest brand consultancies in the country, came up with a model for Luther and said, ‘I would like to give this to Luther as my gift,’” Viniard-Weideman said.

Wulfsberg is the Global Director of Business analytics at Siegel+Gale. He loaned his expertise to lead the quantitative research on prospective students and parents, current students, and the admissions process. Other external entities, such as The Additive Agency, were chosen to lead the discovery process, qualitative research, and strategy development. BTC Revolutions who have previously partnered with companies such as Kellogs, Cinnabon, and Applebees, were also tasked with developing an innovative social media strategy for Luther.

At the beginning of the fall 2018 semester, students from the class of 2018 and 2021 were sent a survey that inquired about their experiences as a student at Luther. Earlier in the summer, two other quantitative surveys were administered; one was sent to the then-incoming class of 2022 regarding their experiences with Luther’s admissions process, and the other was sent to prospective students and parents regarding their perceptions of Luther. Responses to all three surveys were collected and analyzed by The Additive Agency and BTC Revolutions. 

Current Luther students also participated in qualitative interviews with The Additive Agency. This and the quantitative data will guide the next steps in clarifying Luther’s brand.

According to Interim Dean for Institutional Planning and Mission Bradley Chamberlain, qualities such as diversity of student identity are heavily considered in the clarification of the college’s brand.

“The brand work reaffirmed that the learning we had from the strategic planning process [was] that diversity was important to students and to faculty and the campus community,” Chamberlain said. “We have several activities in the strategic plan to advance this idea.”

The Brand Task Force, which consists of staff, faculty, and students, will host meetings and workshops with teams and departments to discuss the brand process and engage in brand position exercises that will be included in the qualitative research. Students are encouraged to attend. The next Brand Faculty Sessions will take place on Dec. 6 and 13.

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