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New marketing campaign to ‘Rev Up’ waning graduate enrollment

Officials will target popular DC spots to advertise graduate and certificate programs.
Ann Duan | Photographer
A University advertisement flashes onto a screen in the Navy Yard-Ballpark Metro station, calling on commuters to “Rev Up.”

A new GW marketing campaign is popping up across popular D.C. spots to rev up graduate student enrollment.

University spokesperson Julia Metjian said the Rev Up campaign will promote GW’s graduate and certificate programs on digital billboards in “high-traffic” areas across D.C. like Reagan National Airport, Nationals Park, Metro stations and bikeshare kiosks as well as digital ads on mobile devices, social media and audio and video streaming platforms. Metjian said the Rev Up tagline, which alludes to GW’s new Revolutionaries moniker, highlights the increased career opportunities for individuals with a graduate degree.

“The Washington, D.C. region is highly competitive with many universities with a presence in the area,” Metjian said in an email. “We want to make sure GW’s graduate programs are top-of-mind for those who are seeking graduate degrees or certificates.”

Graduate student enrollment has decreased by 9 percent in the past six years, from 15,821 graduate students in 2017 to 14,383 students in 2022, according to the enrollment dashboard. Graduate certificate, or nondegree program, enrollment declined from 372 students in 2017 to 314 in 2021 despite the addition of more than 20 certificate programs over the past five years. Higher education experts said the programs’ high cost and the lack of guaranteed job security may deter students from the certificate programs.

University President Ellen Granberg said at a Faculty Senate meeting last month that the Office of Communication and Marketing and the Office of the Provost collaborated to create the Rev Up campaign, which is the first major promotion of graduate programs in years.

Officials hired advertising agency Tribal New York to promote GW’s graduate programs in 2014 amid an enrollment slump but cut ties with Tribal New York and hired LMO Advertising in 2015 to carry out its online marketing. Officials paid $4,228,237 to LMO Advertising in Fiscal Year 2022, which is listed as Laughlin, Marinaccio & Owens Inc. on the University’s Form 990, a tax form for nonprofit institutions to report their revenues and expenses.

“As I understand it has been many, many years since we’ve done a comprehensive campaign to market our graduate programs,” Granberg said at the meeting. “And certainly this is a time when we’re looking to increase enrollment, so I’m delighted that that’s going on.”

Advertisements in Metro stations display a photo of a GW graduate with the caption “Make your career unstoppable,” and include a QR code and link to the Rev Up campaign website.

Despite the targeted approach toward bolstering graduate student enrollment, graduate program directors said enrollment has been inconsistent among some programs over the past few years but welcomed the prospect of increased enrollment. Provost Chris Bracey said at a Faculty Senate meeting last month that the University enrolled a “strong” graduate class this fall led by a rise in international student enrollment.

Fran Buntman, the director of graduate studies for the Department of Sociology, said enrollment data has been “all over the map” because the pandemic made it more difficult to pinpoint trends. She said the sole consistent feature of the program is attracting people who want to change fields from their undergraduate degree because program faculty are open to students new to sociology and criminology.

“We definitely are seeing more people who have come from very different fields, who now want to pivot into sociology or into criminology who are coming to our program,” Buntman said. “I’d say if there was any trend, it would be that.”

Buntman said the Rev Up campaign will help bring awareness to program offerings, which is difficult for her to spearhead independently due to the limited availability in her schedule to advertise programs. She added that there is currently an increase in interest for master’s degrees nationwide and that the campaign keeps GW on people’s “radar screen.”

She added that robust graduate programs are essential to attract “good talent” to GW and for the University’s financial success.

“What I’m hoping is that it will bring more attention to GW in general and our programs in particular so that we continue to attract interesting, smart, motivated people,” Buntman said.

Toni Marsh, the program director of the paralegal master’s degree and graduate certificate programs, said Rev Up is the biggest marketing campaign that she recalls in the 17 years she has directed the paralegal program. She said she thinks officials want to encourage graduate students to conduct research and make advancements in their industries at GW and that the Rev Up campaign will create a “buzz” of positive energy and lead to upticks in correspondence from prospective applicants and the number of applications.

“It’s always good when the University makes a concerted effort to support the graduate programs,” Marsh said. “When they pour the money and the energy and the time and the manpower or the people power into supporting our programs, we immediately feel the effects, and it’s always good.”

Marsh said GW’s “rigorous” paralegal program is the only D.C. program approved by the American Bar Association and has an alumni network of individuals who work at “high-level” jobs, including the CIA, the State Department and the Supreme Court.

She said paralegal program enrollment has grown over the past year, and she hopes the program continues expanding and ensures that students succeed.

“I want to see my students get happy, be happy in their careers and thrive in their careers and that’s what they are doing,” Marsh said. “And so I want that to continue.”

Ingrid Creppell, the director of graduate studies for the Department of Political Science, said master’s student enrollment for political science has not increased or decreased significantly in the past few years but that the Rev Up campaign will put GW “on the map” for political science students seeking a graduate education.

She said the program at GW differs from other graduate political science programs because students can choose to create their own multidisciplinary course schedule, which the Rev Up campaign should feature.

“Washington is a very exciting place to come to study,” Creppell said. “You can make a lot of connections.”

Creppell said political science graduate students create close connections with faculty through serving as teaching assistants, co-authoring research with faculty and meeting with Creppell one-on-one to assist with course scheduling.

“The great faculty and the size of our faculty is a really big draw for the students,” Creppell said. “And the care that the program takes with not letting our students fall through the cracks. These are all, I think, impressive features of the program that would probably be attractive to admitted students when they’re making a decision about where to go.”

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About the Contributor
Ianne Salvosa, News Editor
Ianne Salvosa is a junior majoring in journalism and international affairs from Lake Saint Louis, Missouri. She is The Hatchet's 2023-2024 news editor for the Administration and Finance beat. She previously served as an assistant news editor for the Administration and Finance beat and a contributing news editor for the Academics and Administration beats for Vol. 119.
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