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June 02, 2009

New admissions materials win national awards

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- With a natural look, personal testimonials and attractive presentation, Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s new Undergraduate Admissions marketing materials are doing just what they were intended to do: engaging the attention of prospective students and creating interest.

But, they also are capturing awards. The materials recently collected two national awards: a 2009 American Inhouse Design Award, and a Gold Award in the “Higher Education Marketing Report” 24th annual Admissions Advertising Awards competition in the total recruitment package category for schools with 20,000 or more students.

“We felt we had developed creative, unique and distinctive recruitment materials and that’s really proving to be true,” said Jay Bruce, director of creative services for University Communications, the department that created the materials. “At this level, materials have to be top quality to win these awards. The response we’ve received has been tremendous, not only from students but from parents and the University community as well.”

The “Southern: Shaped by Nature, Forged by Commitment” concept, used throughout the admissions materials, was far from accidental, according to Victoria Valle, assistant vice chancellor of enrollment management.

“We wanted to tell the story of the University more graphically and with a little more punch than it was being told,” Valle said. “We wanted to show SIUC in a much warmer, more personal light. We wanted something that would attract students and also appeal to teachers, counselors and parents. We wanted the information to be accurate and timely and we wanted these materials to show what the University and the region are really like.”

Students at SIUC are totally impressed by the sheer beauty of the campus and area, according to market research and surveys, so it was only natural to say so in the tagline for the admissions materials, Valle said. Likewise, as noted in “Southern at 150,” the slogan speaks of the University’s historical and current commitment, a commitment to diversity, to research, to giving students the tools to help them succeed in life. In addition, the tagline reflects the connection that local residents have to the land -- the land where many have earned their livelihood in coal mines and on farms, Valle said.

“There is a certain spirit within the people of Southern Illinois, a commitment to hard work, a connection to the land,” she said. “Just look at how people came together, pulled together to help one another during the recent disaster. People were and remain committed to create and sustain this place in spite of difficulties. They forge on. In fact, it’s more than a commitment, it’s a real determination to succeed.”

The admissions materials are a visible departure from the norm. Printed on recycled paper, they aren’t slick and glossy. Rather, it’s a natural look, quite fitting given the theme, Bruce noted. A square format is predominant and foldout pages are common. Engaging environmental photographs highlight the unique aspects of campus, Bruce said. As readers digest the words, they feel as if they’re talking one on one with a good friend, a friend who really knows about SIUC. Through personal testimonials, students, faculty and alumni tell of their experiences at the University and the positive impact it continues to have on their lives.

Preparing the viewbook, transfer brochure, road piece, welcome package and other admissions packet materials was a collaborative effort from start to finish, Valle and Bruce said. The Office of Enrollment Management was the hands-on client, offering ideas and input as University Communications staff created the materials. Andrea Hahn of the Public Relations unit wrote the copy. Amy Dion of the Creative Services unit designed the layout with co-worker Nathan Krummel assisting. Photocommunications staff Steve Buhman, Rusty Bailey and Jeff Garner snapped the photographs and Dion even clicked a few frames herself.

“The Admissions Advertising Awards is one of the largest educational advertising awards competitions in the country and the American Inhouse Design Awards spotlights excellence among creative experts in a wide variety of venues. Standing out among this type of competition is very difficult. Being named a Gold Winner and an American Inhouse Design Award winner for our total recruitment package is a great honor and is a direct result of the outstanding levels of cooperation and teamwork both within our department and across campus. These are wins for the entire University and proof that we are heading in the right direction,” said Michael Ruiz, director of University Communications.

“I’m overjoyed at the new awards won,” Valle agreed. “It really speaks well to the collaborative effort of everyone involved. I’m really impressed with the quality of the work by University Communications.”

Higher Education Marketing Report is an online magazine and its competition was open to institutions of higher learning throughout the U.S. The report published its winners’ list in its March edition, online at

American Inhouse Design Awards contest from “Graphic Design USA” pitted SIUC’s admissions materials not only against those from other universities and institutions of higher education but also against corporations, publishers, associations and other institutions. Contest officials touted the “remarkably strong” quality and quantity of more than 4,000 entries from all over the country this year.

More than 100,000 people within the marketing and design industry subscribe to American Inhouse Design, found online at For its winning design package, SIUC received a certificate of excellence and the national readership will view the University’s winning design in the 300-page Inhouse Design Awards Annual, set for July/August publication, as well as on the Web site.

These were not the only awards for the admissions materials either. University Communications claimed two silver and seven bronze awards this spring at the American Advertising Federation’s ADDY competition, with the both silver and three of the bronze awards for various new admissions materials.

The admissions materials are drawing attention in more ways than one, Valle said. Other units and departments around the University have adopted the format and look for brochures, magazines and promotional materials. And students are snapping up the literature. Early research indicates the admissions materials are indeed bringing students to SIUC, helping them see themselves furthering their education at the University.

“We’re painting a picture of why a student should come here and these materials are very convincing,” Bruce said.

“They have a look and a feel and a message that resonates,” Valle added. “They embody the spirit and the heart of Southern.”