Junior Mira Carroll is studying abroad in Paris, France, this semester, but her friends still see her around the University of Richmond.
“My face is all over campus, but I’m not,” Carroll said.
Carroll is one of six students and four professors who have seen their likenesses posted high above their heads on banners around UR.
The banners, which overlay individual portraits with additional pictures of campus buildings or groups, are the most visible on-campus part of University Communication’s recently launched branding effort.
The branding campaign, tied together with the phrase, “It’s within us,” emphasizes that Spiders are ambitious, curious and determined, said Cynthia Price, the director of media and public relations.
Along with the banners on campus, the campaign is comprised of national advertising, including billboards, and signage at the Richmond International Airport, Price said.
Price said the idea for rebranding the university had begun with President Ronald Crutcher.
“When President Crutcher arrived to our campus, he was really impressed by what he discovered,” Price said. “But what he said repeatedly was he didn’t think that the UR story was being fully told.”
The campaign has unfolded over three years, Price stated in an email. The process began with surveys and focus groups of students, faculty members, staff members, parents, alumni and the greater community. About 2,000 people participated in those efforts, and after gathering that information, University Communications created attributes and pillars to describe UR, which resulted in the new brand, Price said.
The president’s office paid for the research efforts, and University Communications paid for the creative work and execution, including the banners, Price said.
“This carefully framed and creatively stylized expression of our identity will help us more effectively and persuasively tell the University of Richmond’s distinctive and compelling story to a national audience,” President Crutcher wrote in his September update to the university community.
Julian Hayter, an associate professor of leadership studies, is one of the people pictured on the campus banners. Hayter, who serves on Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s Monument Avenue Commission, was featured on “60 Minutes” with Anderson Cooper in March for a segment on Confederate monuments.
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Hayter said some institutions would have tried to run away from his comments on “60 Minutes” because of the controversial nature of the topic. UR should be praised for publicizing them instead, he said.
“We’re diving headlong into these complex negotiations about the school’s identity, the school’s history, who the school is now and the school’s future,” Hayter said. “I think the branding campaign is in some way a way to do that.”
The students and faculty selected to be featured in the branding campaign are chosen based on their work, scholarship and accomplishments, as well as to reflect a wide diversity of people, Price said.
“The beauty here is we really don’t have any lack of individuals to choose from,” Price said.
University Communications keeps a running list of potential people to be featured in the campaign, Price said. Then a person is asked to come in to shoot photos or video, but University Communications doesn’t usually know where a person’s image will be used ahead of time, Price said.
That’s made for some shocks among featured students. Senior Heather Selby was asked to do a photo shoot in June for the campaign but was surprised to see herself on a banner in August, she said. She finds it funny now, as do her friends, she said.
“I get a lot of Snapchats from my friends … of my face,” Selby said.
But Selby’s face won’t be posted around campus forever. The banners will be changed throughout the year during significant time periods, such as homecoming and commencement, Price said.
Carroll, the junior studying abroad, said her friends had joked that they missed her, but that she was still with them in a way.
“I think it’s a really neat campaign that they’re doing,” Carroll said. “And it’s very Richmond-specific and individualized to the students, and the fact that they’re using actual students, I think that’s pretty cool.”
Contact editor-in-chief Ashlee Korlach at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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