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Prior to the start of Rochester College’s homecoming basketball games on Saturday, Oct. 20, President Brian Stogner made the official announcement that RC would be transitioning to Rochester University. The transition is expected to be completed by August 2020, but the changes are beginning now.
A detailed timeline is expected to be released by January 2019, but for now, here is a little insight into how and why the decision was made.
The change has been in the works for a few years, dating as far back as Dr. Rubel Shelly’s time as president at RC. That is when the idea was first introduced to the internal campus community, according to Scott Samuels, RC vice president who oversees admissions, student life and marketing.
Stogner designated Samuels to lead the 22-month transition process. Both leaders say the name change has been years in the making. “We’ve been talking about it for a long time,” Samuels said. “It got tabled for quite a while.”
Now the senior leadership team believes the time is right to make the transition to become a university.
“As we started to dream about the future and think about recruitment and how we could increase exposure for the institution, it just seemed to be the right time,” Samuels said.
One of the main reasons for the change was that the term “college” was beginning to refer more to community colleges and other two-year institutions. This perception of the word “college” caused identity issues for RC and was something the senior leadership team felt needed to be addressed.
“Being lumped in with the community colleges kept happening, so we knew we just have to do this now,” Samuels said.
Stogner said confusion about Rochester College’s identity was occurring frequently.
“We really felt like it was time to say who we are in a more accurate fashion and then communicate it to the public,” Stogner said.
Samuel said the change already represents what the college is today. “We are not doing this because we are aspiring to do something in the future; we are doing this because the name ‘university’ much better reflects who we already are,” he said.
The implementation of using the name Rochester University will occur in phases.
The new academic logo is expected to be released at partnership dinner in April. It will be the first major piece of the rebrand to go public. The logo will be a collaborative effort between RC staff and Push 22, an advertising and digital communication agency that has collaborated with RC for seven years. The team will be designing three logos: academics, athletics and the university seal.
“As a designer, when you’re working on those, you’re probably going to design all three at the same time, but we are not going to share them all at the same time,” said Elliot Jones, director of communication services at RC. “If we drop all three at the same time, it’s chaos.”
One of the goals for Jones is to create a consistent branding throughout the campus, which includes all of the academic departments, sports teams and clubs.
“We are going to get to the point, whatever this (RU) logo is, there is going to be a guideline for every department,” he said.
Jones wants to see consistency in colors and fonts, which will bring a cohesive, cleaner and more recognizable look for the school.
Samuels said, “You kind of get one chance to do this right, so there’s a lot of pressure.”
At this point, diplomas will not change until spring 2020, but some discussion has occurred about making the switch sooner.
“We want to do that as soon as we can, because that’s what we feel students want,” Stogner said.
Alumni who have RC-branded diplomas can request updated ones with the RU branding. Information about that process will be announced at a later date.
Admissions will be the first to start using the name Rochester University. Samuels said all of the official literature for admissions will be completely switched over by the spring.
“When we start to recruit the class that will start in fall‘’20, everything that they see will be RU, because when they arrive we will be RU,” Samuels said.
Athletics will be one of the last to switch; this area is also one of the most expensive pieces to the transition process.
“There is a lot of imagery that goes with our athletics,” Samuels said. “Choosing when to transition athletics is a huge decision that we have yet to make, but I feel we will have more clarity on that after the first of the year.”
The newly built Garth Pleasant Arena, will need to be fully switched over to represent the rebrand. That is the largest of many assets that will need to be changed.
“Preparing for it from a timing and a financial perspective is a big challenge, because there is a lot to accomplish,” Samuels said. “When you think about all the signage that needs to be changed around campus, it can start to feel overwhelming.”
Jones said one of his summer projects was “to go around and catalog everything that had Rochester College on it or the RC and assign a dollar amount” to the change over.
Though the cost of rebranding may be high, Samuels believes that it will pay off in the long run.
“(The rebrand) will propel us on to additional student recruitment, better donor relationships and better community relationships,” Samuels said.
Stogner made clear that no money will be allocated from the current academic’s budget, as educating the current students is the college’s top priority.
“What we hope is that we can do it within our existing marketing budget,” Stogner said. “That is part of the reason why we are spreading it out over a couple years.”
At the moment, no plan is in place to ask for donations specifically for the rebrand.
As the transition inches towards completion, there may be confusion among staff and students as to how to refer to the school. While the school is currently Rochester College and will be until August 2020, “in terms of how we talk about ourselves, we’ll start calling ourselves Rochester University now,” Stogner said.
“If (students) were to say I go to Rochester University that would be a perfectly appropriate thing to say,” he said.
As the college moves further into the process, the timeline for the transition will become clearer with each step getting the institution closer to the change. And once August 2020 is here, RC will be RU.