'What is us?' Towson finds out Identity: It cost $190,500 to get it all right. Meanwhile, an unlegislated comma surfaces at UMBC, and Baltimore County's colleges may be in line for a new naming system.

Education Beat

September 21, 1997|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

TOWSON UNIVERSITY has been "branded," according to a news release received a few days ago from Interbrand, a New York firm specializing in corporate images.

The release described Interbrand's creation of a "new identity" for Towson, one designed to "reposition the university from a local, government-funded educational institution to an established, prominent university well-equipped to compete internationally for first-class professors, students and funding."

Interbrand's Cassidy Morgan added: "The new identity embodies a new vision and direction for the university -- learning for life."

In the corporate world that Towson has entered since it dropped "State" from its name July 1, institutions don't have logos; they have "identities." And the firm hired to advise Towson calls itself a "branding consultancy."

The work isn't cheap, either. Ellen Stokes, Towson's vice president of marketing, said Towson paid Interbrand $190,500 to develop the logo and related marketing strategies.

"Our new name and identity symbolize the beginning of a new era of innovative change and leadership for Towson," she said. "We feel we got our money's worth and then some."

Interbrand worked closely with Towson officials in designing the logo, Stokes said. Numerous brainstorming sessions were held, and at least 30 concepts were tried out. "The question was, 'What is us?' " Stokes said.

The news release describes the logo this way: "The new brand mark consists of two abstract -- yet synchronized -- flags firmly anchored in the word 'Towson' by the extended upward stroke of the 'W.' " Stokes said the flags were inspired by the pennants in the Maryland state seal.

Interbrand describes itself as "one of the world's leading branding consultancies." It has done work for MCI, BMW and MasterCard, Stokes said, so Towson is in "good company."

She added: "Five years from now, this is going to bear fruit in ways we don't understand today."

Administrative fiat does what legislation missed

In other news of names, there's The Mystery of the UMBC Comma.

Towson University isn't the only university in Maryland with a new name. The 1997 General Assembly added commas to the two oldest campuses, creating the University of Maryland, College Park and University of Maryland, Baltimore.

The schools historically have wanted to be the research-oriented campuses of the university -- setting themselves apart from that 30-year-old upstart in Catonsville, the University of Maryland Baltimore County. For the two schools, the commas were marks of distinction.

But noses have been out of joint in College Park because UMBC also has appropriated the comma, calling itself the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in official correspondence and documents. Moreover, the state's major newspapers have granted UMBC an unlegislated comma.

Education Beat set out to get to the bottom of it. We worked our way through two levels of public relations, finally reaching John Lippincott, associate vice chancellor for advancement at the University System of Maryland (formerly University of Maryland System).

Lippincott explained that UMBC wanted a comma, but it came along too late, after the name-change bill was in draft form. So university officials decided to make the change by administrative fiat.

In the long run, he said, UMBC "doesn't want University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a moniker. It wants to be UMBC." That is, UMBC wants to be its acronym and nothing else, just as the SAT is the SAT, and nothing else (see "Education Beat," Aug. 31).

So, yes, at UMBC a rose is a rose is a, rose.

Next on the horizon, CCBCAC, CCBCAD

Finally, there is the matter of the names of the three Community Colleges of Baltimore County. A panel of consultants last week gave the system a well-deserved chop in the guts for incompetent, chaotic administration and politicized policy-making.

Among the consultants' recommendations: change the three schools' names to the Community College of Baltimore County at Catonsville, the Community College of Baltimore County at Dundalk, and the same for Essex.

"This way we are showing that it's a single college administratively, while we maintain the identities of the three campuses," said James L. Fisher, the former Towson University president who headed the CCBC review.

So while Towson University's name-changers are reductionist, CCBC's would-be changers are expansionist. But think of the cheers at athletic contests: "Go, CCBCAE!"

Pride of Baltimore seeks teacher passenger

The Pride of Baltimore II, Maryland's goodwill ambassador of the seas, is looking for a Maryland teacher to take aboard for eight weeks of a yearlong voyage to Asia and the Pacific Rim, departing from the Inner Harbor Dec. 6.

The winning teacher, to be selected in cooperation with the state Department of Education, will receive a Christa McAuliffe Fellowship, named after the New England teacher killed in the 1986 Challenger rocket explosion.

The application deadline is Oct. 1. For information, call the Pride office: 410-539-1151.

Pub Date: 9/21/97

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