The Exemplary Higher Education Marketer

Is marketing proficiency the greatest service you and your team can provide your school? Or should you also challenge yourselves to a more profound standard?

February 2, 2017

On the heels of a spirited conversation about the role of a college’s core curriculum in recruitment marketing messaging, a very dear faculty friend turned me on to William Cronon’s 1998 essay titled, “Only Connect…The Goals of a Liberal Education.”

Dr. Cronon Is the Frederick Jackson Turner Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies, and Vilas Research Professor at UW-Madison. In his piece that originally appeared in The American Scholar and is available on his website, Cronon speaks to the question, “What does it mean to be a liberally educated person?”

The essay packs the thoughtful firepower to elevate any conversation about curriculum, especially a core curriculum, to an enlightened and fresh place. I’ll leave it to you to invest five minutes and draw your own conclusions.

In the course of re-shaping my own thinking about the form and function of a liberal arts curriculum, Cronon lays out the ten qualities he admires most among people he recognizes as liberally educated. As I absorbed each one, it occurred to me—as subtle as a lightning bolt—these are also the qualities of marketing colleagues whose insight, strategy and practice I admire most.

I share Cronon’s unedited list below with the hope that in it, you will discover inspiration and opportunity to continue your professional and personal development in service to your colleagues, to your institution and the families it serves, and to the profession we are so fortunate to call our own.

How does one recognize an exemplary higher education marketer?

  1. They listen and they hear
  2. They read and they understand
  3. They can talk with anyone.
  4. They can write clearly and persuasively and movingly.
  5. They can solve a wide variety of puzzles and problems.
  6. They respect rigor not so much for its own sake, but as a way of seeking truth.
  7. They practice humility, tolerance and self-criticism.
  8. They understand how things get done in the world.
  9. They nurture and empower the people around them.
  10. They follow E.M. Forster’s injunction from Howards End: “Only connect…”

Being an extraordinary marketer, like being a liberally educated person, “…is about gaining the power and the wisdom, the generosity and the freedom to connect.” Commit yourself to skillfully, insightfully connecting the core truth and emotional centerpoint of your institution with the needs and dreams of the communities you serve, and you have delivered your greatest professional service.

Eric Sickler has helped the nation's college and universities clarify and more fully engage their brands for more than three decades. You can reach him at The Thorburn Group, a Stamats company.​


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