Dissent: New motto a good fit
By Tom McWhertor
Vice President for Enrollment and External Relations
In the Oct. 19 Chimes an opinion piece called ``Selling Calvin: mottoes in the making'' looked at Calvin's new promotional materials and its new ways of communicating over a century of existence as an educational institution. That piece begs for a response.
The new Calvin tagline, Minds in the Making, is meant to describe in a succinct fashion the core of what we do here. This place is first and foremost an academic institution. Students come here from around the country, continent and world to, as the phrase used to go, ``take'' an education (a much better way to say it, don't you think, than ``receive'' an education).
This is not a church, this is not a social club and this is not a place to meet a spouse. This is a college. Now, people do develop strong social networks here, making lifetime friends and, yes, perhaps meeting their eventual spouse. People do find their faith fostered here. And people do engage the world with body, soul and mind. But the bottom-line mission of Calvin is education. So, in describing ourselves to people who may not know us, and even to those who do (or think they do), we want to be clear about our academic emphasis.
Despite what some might think, Christian colleges, including Calvin, have work to do in this area. Christian colleges struggle with the perception that they are adult Sunday schools. They struggle with the perception that a Christian education necessarily means an inferior or second-rate education.
Calvin has consciously decided to highlight, via the new tagline, that this is a place that takes seriously the life of the mind. And that is not spin. That is an accurate representation of who we are. This place provides a first-class academic education.
I should add that Crane MetaMarketing, the company that we partnered with on this project, conducted numerous interviews and focus groups with students, faculty and staff prior to crafting the new materials. The themes that come out in the viewbooks, posters, ads and, yes, even the tagline are themes that people on this campus felt were a hallmark of a Calvin education. Crane, in other words, is not attempting to tell us who we are. Their work is to help us best tell others who we are. And who we are is a place for top-notch academics.
Now, having said that, let me be clear about the next point: what we do here is provide an education that is different. As our mission statement says: ``Through our learning we seek to be agents of renewal in the academy, church and society.'' This is education with a larger purpose. And so all of our new materials, be they admissions viewbooks, virtual tours on the web, ads and more, go deeper in explaining Calvin to prospective students, alumni, parents and others.
For example, an ad called ``All Things'' begins with a four-point summary of Reformed theology and then dovetails into a description of the new core curriculum.
``Students explore the academic spectrum,'' the ad says, ``always analyzing, always considering how they can better the world. Calvin people believe God's words: `See, I am making all things new.' In our minds, that's a promise - and a call.''
All of these materials are meant to demonstrate that at Calvin we are pursuing a unique brand of higher education, one that is excellent in every way and based on a firm foundation of faith. In fact, the author of last week's opinion piece noted this in his perusal of the promotional materials, saying he was ``pleasantly surprised with the images of Calvin that were presented.''
That is affirmation that the new ways of communicating Calvin are working. Minds in the Making drew him deeper into the materials, just as was intended. Minds in the Making is not the conversation; it's the conversation starter.
It's interesting that last week's opinion piece called for Calvin to consider the seal as a source for a tagline. As it noted, the seal is still being used in various places, including the banners on campus. And it will continue to be part of the Calvin identity. But the seal and a tagline such as ``heart and head and hand'' don't really mesh, do they. For the seal is, in fact, the heart and hand, but the head is not visually represented.
One could suggest that the motto on the seal, ``My heart I offer to you, Lord, promptly and sincerely,'' can be taken to mean we offer our whole selves, head too, to our God. But isn't it interesting that as a college we have been willing to assume that that's understood.