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Inside the UB branding strategy survey

Matt Gritzmacher

We learned last week that UB would be polling stakeholders as part of an ongoing branding study designed to "advance the success of UB 2020." Today, the survey arrived in inboxes around the world.

That's not an exaggeration; we got a note on Twitter from an alumnus in Japan who filled out the survey.

For those wondering what exactly the survey asked, Kevin gave us a quick look this morning, and now, I'm able to take you question-by-question through. I will not be posting the link to the survey, since presumably there was a level of intentionality in who received links. I myself received the link via a forward, and breezed through the survey. I'm hopeful that the results weren't logged if I left it before filling out the final demographic questions.

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Pretty straightforward to open up. From here, we get two rounds of agree/disagree questions. The survey provided a series of statements. The first round asked respondents to agree/disagree based on their personal feelings, while the second asked them to agree/disagree based on the perceived reputation of the school. I think we can all agree that regardless of what wheels have already turned, UB's reputation is not in line with its actual stature.

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In addition to that first statement, the survey presented 14 more:

Has distinguished Arts and Sciences programs
Attracts and retains the highest quality faculty and staff
Encourages collegiality among faculty, staff and alumni
Has excellent Undergraduate programs
Provides a strong Humanities education
Is affordable
Has distinguished Graduate programs
Offers a comprehensive breadth of programs
Is known for important research
Encourages intellectual freedom
Fosters a community-minded student body
Provides a strong STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education
Has distinguished Professional programs
Encourages students to develop an international perspective


A similar exercise followed, but asked the respondent what was necessary for UB to thrive in the future.

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Other presented statements:

Develop a distinctive reputation
Enhance academic distinction
Better differentiate the University from peer universities
Attract and retain world class faculty
Leverage connection with the SUNY system
Foster alumni connection/support with the University at Buffalo
Raise the awareness of the University
Attract and retain high quality students
Provide pathways to career success
Contribute to the economic development of the City of Buffalo and WNY Region
Enhance international presence
Improve accessibility to students
Increase visibility of university athletics


Respondents then rank the prompts they tagged as important and very important

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Three questions that are pretty straightforward.

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By now it's abundantly clear what they're getting at, as Kevin pointed out, and as we figured in our post from a week ago. From the specific naming conventions, the survey moves on to comparisons with other universities.

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The five universities tagged for me were Rutgers, Penn State, Rochester, Binghamton, and Stony Brook. By the sounds of it, Kevin and other commenters received a similar lineup.

After going through this with each school I was asked demographic questions and not wanting my hasty answers to be treated as genuine, I asked out. If there were more substantial questions after the age/gender stuff split, then let me know.


I don't want to spend too much time on my own takeaways, but I think the survey is appropriately open-ended. While the topic and end-game is clear, it's not a huge surprise given the previous email, I think there's plenty of room for any opinion to work through.

My lone concern -- admittedly as someone who thinks the University should aggressively seize 'king of the mountain' status among SUNY -- is that all the SUNY-related names presented in the middle of the survey are so awkward that *no* New York options will emerge from either that question or the open-ended one that follows.

This is not the survey's fault, but the prompt asks for "casual conversation." I do not believe at this point in time that the university can garner the reputation it already deserves without a clear connection to New York State and a foregrounded position within the system. "SUNY" in any iteration doesn't get that done.


Editorializing over. If you've completed the survey, was it about what you expected? If you haven't, what do you think having seen the questions?