We hear a great deal about marketing today, even in the world of higher education. Although the trend toward incorporating business principles and practices meets with great resistance, even revulsion, within the academic community, the fact of the matter is that universities and colleges have a product to sell — namely themselves and the education they impart — and it’s a buyer’s market! Intense competition among institutions of higher learning, along with the ever-increasing costs involved in their operations and activities, make it essential that academic institutions promote and “brand” themselves in such a way as to garner their market share.
To that end, much like commercial enterprises, American universities and colleges have taken to the practice of identifying “taglines,” marketing tools intended to draw quick attention to themselves. Almost three years ago, CUA settled on a tagline that we thought was catchy and descriptive: “Do it all. Discover excellence. Experience success.” The idea was that CUA gives its students the opportunity to combine an excellent education, growth in faith, personal development and appropriate social experiences, as well as opportunities to take advantage of living and working in our nation’s capital. “Do it all.” Of course, the announcement of the tagline was met with the usual “tsk-tsking” in some corners of the university, while some students were quick to give it a less than noble interpretation. Recently, one student suggested that CUA’s tagline should have read “Do it all*. *Certain restrictions apply!”
At any rate, taglines have a shelf life and the time has come to introduce another one, the result of a competition involving hundreds of our undergraduate and graduate students. The new catchphrase selected for CUA is: “Reason. Faith. Service.”
Those three words capture, in a simple, direct, yet profound way, both what we are and what we do at The Catholic University of America. True enough, they could be the mantra of any good Catholic or religious institution of higher education. But, when attached to this particular institution, with its unique mission and its history, they take on a special meaning: Reason. The purpose of university education is to enlighten the mind in the deepest possible ways to the mysteries of the world in which we live. Reason seeks truth. Faith. Reason, even when stretched to its furthest limits, only provides a partial view of truth. There is more to be known, more to be experienced and more to be revealed in a world created by God, whose wisdom and truth are without limits and remain accessible only to a person who understands that there is more to life than the mind, alone, can grasp. Catholic education, when it imparts and strengthens faith, enlightens the soul. Service. Reason and faith, in and of themselves, make precious little difference in the world unless they motivate us to action on behalf of our neighbor. And action that puts reason and faith at the service of our sisters and brothers in this world fulfills the Lord’s command: “Love one another.” Service enlightens the world.
Marketing is important for any and all enterprises that depend on people to keep them going. CUA is no exception. And, in the process of fine-tuning our “brand,” we have, once again, settled upon a trademark that is both timely and timeless for us — a tagline that will “keep the customer satisfied” if we live up to it in all that we say and do and are.
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