by Ty Saini '93
After a winter of consistent snow, rain and temperatures hovering around the freezing mark, the weather in Maryland finally cleared in early March. With the sun bright, the roads dry and the thermometer reaching 50, it was only natural that everyone wanted to get out of their houses and move about. My friends and I decided to get in a bike ride.
While I was out, I passed by a pack of riders—some of whom were wearing jerseys and shorts that were emblazoned with a local university’s name. I started to think about name recognition, Dickinson, branding and alumni pride. Of course, I was happy just to feel the sun on my face and be in the moment of enjoying my bike, but I also was reminded of a conversation I had with an alumna earlier that week. Keep in mind that both she and her husband are engaged Dickinson alumni.
She told me that her neighbor was recently accepted to Dickinson and, for whatever natural reasons, the two families had never discussed their college experiences. It was purely by chance that she learned about his college acceptance. So after living across the street from one another for quite some time, the resulting comment was, “Oh, you went to Dickinson?”
Perhaps you’ve experienced this question as well? We attended a nationally recognized school with a relatively small student population. Our alumni body is nearly 23,000 strong. We do not have Division I sports teams that get air time on marquis TV channels or whose athletic apparel is sold in big box retail stores, and we do not have graduate programs. That is not who we intended to be. Yet we need more people to know who we are and to learn about the amazing accomplishments of our students, faculty and alumni.
I am not a marketing expert, but after listening to enough professionals and just reflecting on society’s habits, I find one thing is certain—the more a person sees a brand, the more likely he or she is to remember it and explore what it is.
How can we as proud alumni play a role in this effort? As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, getting involved with volunteer opportunities such as admissions is one way to let others in your community know that you attended Dickinson and support its future. But let’s consider a simpler approach, one that is likely to reach an even broader audience.
Now that the weather is warming up and we’re putting away the sweaters and coats, take a look at what Dickinson clothing might exist in your wardrobe. Do you have a T-shirt, polo shirt or hat? Maybe you still have that perfectly broken-in sweatshirt from your student days? Or maybe it’s time to replace or update what you have? How often do you find yourself wearing Dickinson apparel outside of your home?
The point is, any alum can do his or her part simply by wearing Dickinson clothing—to your gym, your kid’s soccer game, while traveling or shopping. I remember when I moved to New York City right after graduation and would jog in Central Park. So many college shorts and shirts dotted the landscape. I always looked for our college’s name and was curious to see if I knew the person. Even if I didn’t recognize that individual, it was nice to know that I was part of an extended community while living in such a big city.
And as I meet more alumni, I often hear of such stories where people strike up a conversation because someone had an article of Dickinson clothing on. In fact, many of these conversations have occurred on other continents and in remote areas. It shows how widespread our alumni are and how happy we are to meet someone with a Dickinson connection. Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience. Perhaps you were driving and spotted a Dickinson sticker on the back of a car. What emotions did it spark? Did you speed up to see who was driving, even if only to smile at them?
This April, Dickinson launches Red & White Day, a new tradition to honor the past and support the future of Dickinson athletics. I ask that you find your Dickinson gear and wear it to show pride in our alma mater. Can we, as an alumni body, commit to such a simple request and help brand the Dickinson name? What other easy ways exist to demonstrate our pride for the college that is clearly visible to the public?
Read more from the spring 2014 issue of Dickinson Magazine.
Published April 22, 2014