If you head south on Chestnut Avenue from Highway 180 toward the university, you will see a billboard that says “Advertising is evil, until it gets you to eat an orange.” We teach marketing and advertising and use it extensively, so I would not endorse the first clause in the statement. Advertising can be used for good, and in fact it can be used for something very good, better even than encouraging healthy eating, like encouraging enrolling in and supporting Fresno Pacific University.

We believe our mission is important, even crucial, life-changing—or “transformative,” as we say—for students and for the communities of this region, and around the world. We believe that when our graduates “serve in diverse local and global communities,” seek “peacemaking through reconciliation and social justice,” work through “integrating competency in the arts, sciences and professions” and practice “wise and effective ethical leadership through generous and compassionate service and professional excellence that embodies the kingdom of Christ,” they are being the kind of people that demonstrates the extraordinary value and importance of the work of Fresno Pacific. The phrases quoted here are from the first statement of our new strategic plan. They reflect the “desired condition,” or the result of the education practiced at this university. This inspiring mission is a privilege to be a part of for faculty, staff and administration. It is also a great benefit to our graduates and all those they work and live with in businesses, education and ministry or among family, friends and neighbors. It is much better than eating an orange, and so we advertise! We do not hide this light under a bushel.

Ten years ago we completed a marketing or branding study. A few of the immediately visible results of that study were a new logo, a new “tag line” (Empowering leaders. Transforming Lives.), enrollment growth and greater recognition in the region. We have now begun a new marketing/branding study to help us further communicate and develop the mission of Fresno Pacific University. Some would say 10 years is a long time between these major efforts. In the meantime, however, we have continued to do smaller studies on the needs for majors, the changing desires of traditional-aged and adult students, and the varying needs of different localities. We have tested what we have learned from these studies with the major study of 10 years ago. Until recently things had not changed substantially. Now, after a few years of very rapid change in the educational and economic environments, we need a new comprehensive study to help us understand and communicate with the many overlapping populations we serve.

A study such as this helps us understand the needs of our students and the communities they and we serve, bringing together those needs with our mission of “excellence in Christian higher education” and using words and images that best communicate the benefits of an FPU education. Last week a group called Ologie visited the campus to begin that study. A number of people have asked what the name means. As “theology” is the study of or word (logos) about theos, or God, so “Ologie,” as I understand it, is about the study of whoever they are studying—in this case us. Whether we individually like the name or not, it has generated conversation and helped put them on our map—that’s a creative way to market their brand and services. We need that kind of creativity!

The team met with various groups and individuals, asked many, many questions and gathered reams of notes. They got to know us in depth and with real interest. Now and in the next weeks they will be talking with many off campus—those we serve, alumni and those who hire them, our churches, community leaders and supporters. Following those interviews they will return, no doubt with more questions, but also with conclusions, ideas and recommendations. We may not like some of them. Sometimes it is hard to hear things you don’t want to hear—and it takes someone outside to tell us. We will immediately be surprised by and love some of them—sometimes it takes someone outside to help us see what we have to offer more clearly. We will listen, ask questions, study their “ology” about us, make decisions and begin to use what they offer us to communicate our mission, respond to the needs of those we serve. This is the foundation for a new branding campaign. The brand conveys creatively who we are and how we meet the needs of our region and students, and how we pursue the goals that result in the kind of transformative education exemplified in our mission, our strategic plan, our vision for the future and the FPU Idea.

It is important that the whole FPU community understands how we are perceived by those we serve, and how we can communicate our mission and meet their needs. The more unified we are as a community in achieving a common understanding of our broad identity, the more effective we will be in communicating our identity. We will work intensely to better serve and communicate. It takes a lot of effort (and can be a lot of fun). A group, led by Vice President for Integrated Marketing Diana Mock, and joined by VP for Enrollment and Student Services Jon Endicott, along with many in their areas and others will keep the effort going, keep us focused, help us see the opportunities and help us experience the energizing creativity this kind of effort inspires. We are ready for the ology of FPU. Lead on!


Steve Varvis