How to cogitate beyond the paperboard cuboid

July 27, 2001

A marketing campaign that pokes fun at academic jargon helped a low-profile Ontario university meet a daunting faculty recruitment challenge.

Using some self-deprecating wit, the University of Windsor's award-winning campaign took six simple cliches, including "March to the beat of a different drummer", "Get out of the rat race", "Opportunity is knocking", and "Think outside the box", and put them through the lexicon of the typical conference paper.

Those rewritten cliches became the headlines for adverts, suggesting to potential recruits they could "Advance under self-directed percussiveness", "Escape the rodential contestation", hear "The rapping of propitious circumstance" or that they might want to try a university where they could "Cogitate beyond the paperboard cuboid".

When Janice Drakich, Windsor's director of faculty recruitment and retention, first met with a local advertising firm to launch the campaign, she showed them the type of faculty recruitment efforts found in Canadian universities and professional magazines, as well as in The THES and the Chronicle of Higher Education . "They all fall into a pattern that's fairly conservative and attempt to present a professional image of the institution," Dr Drakich said. "I told them 'This is how I don't want it'."

The university, located in the heart of Canada's ailing auto industry, had some other challenges to face. With approximately 400 faculty in 1999, it had to find 100 tenure-track faculty members and another 100 full-time limited-term professors in three years, in a competitive recruiting environment.

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada has projected a 20 per cent rise in the number of full-time professors over the next decade, due to an increase in student enrolments and faculty retirements. That will mean an average of 3,000 new faculty a year among a PhD supply of only 4,000.

To help gather information for the campaign and, later, an award-winning video, Windsor's faculty recruitment office talked to new faculty about what had attracted and kept them at the university.

The advertising firm, Hargreaves, Charbonneau & Associates Inc, then came up with a campaign that used not only the pretentious cliches but also turned on its ear some of the cliches about Windsor. Since then, Windsor has been meeting its goals and will have recruited 200 new full-time faculty by autumn.

Dr Drakich said her office's place in the university contributed to the campaign's success. It is the only centralised faculty recruiting office in Canada.

Most universities use faculty search committees, with some input from deans and vice-rectors. Windsor worked with the search committees, figuring out which areas to target with all marketing decisions flowing through the one office.

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