California State University, Fullerton

Advancing Cal State Fullerton in the higher-education marketplace

The primary goal for external communications efforts at Cal State Fullerton is to help the institution move toward an aspirational position within the higher-education landscape where the cumulative, collective perceptions within key stakeholder groups allow the institution to most effectively fulfill its educational mission. In this context, that can mean raising private financial support, attracting and retaining the best faculty, securing adequate public funding through advocacy, and developing enrollment and involvement in planned, thoughtful ways consistent with institutional interests.

In University Advancement, the division responsible for many externally focused advancement-related communications, a positioning statement developed in 2009 (based on research and analysis of recent market and perceptual data conducted during the preceding year) helps to focus and guide communications work:

California State University, Fullerton is widely understood to be a standout institution of the CSU system – a comprehensive, investment-worthy university based in Orange County that is of the highest academic quality with which key markets (prospective students, donors, and faculty) actively seek to associate, where the value of one's degree increases in value over time, and whose ongoing commitment to accessibility and affordability is already known and appreciated. Together with the benefits of an advanced technological environment, commitment to sustainability, and a teaching-focused faculty that help make students globally competitive in their careers of choice, CSUF's unmatched value serves as the institution's defining characteristic and competitive advantage. This cumulative understanding by our primary audiences is at the center of Cal State Fullerton's core brand attributes, resulting in the institution growing as a first-choice option for prospective students and employees, and making it increasingly attractive for both private and public financial support.

The research and analysis that led to this statement indicated that while perceptions of the university among various audiences would be interpreted by many as being quite "positive," Cal State Fullerton meant many different things to many different people. The core concept around which most data orbited was a sense that Cal State Fullerton was truly "a cut above" -- that everything from the depth and breadth of programs, to the quality of instruction, to the vibrancy of co-curricular offerings was superior to that of like institutions at like price points.

It will be incumbent on the university to periodically assess its market position and determine if perceptions by a variety of stakeholder groups is changing, and how. We must continue to think about, develop, and analyze metrics that seek to help assess the university's progress in evolving into the type of institution it chooses to be, and the degree to which advancement efforts support that vision.