New advertising effort sells DePaul as ‘urban educated, world ready’


DePaul President Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, C.M’s statement at the beginning of DePaul’s new branding video shows the world what DePaul is about: “We’re not trying to be like every other university. We want to be DePaul.”

Diversity, urban education, globalization and social responsibility are highlighted in the video which is titled “DePaul: Urban Education. World Ready.”

Despite overall enrollment declining 6 percent since 2011, Verna Donovan, associate vice president of Strategic Marketing and Branding, said the video was not an effort to improve enrollment, but rather to better establish DePaul’s brand.

“The goals for this engagement effort are to better clarify what makes DePaul special, increase affinity among the university community and build confidence in our various audiences to share DePaul’s story and their own personal DePaul experiences with others,” she said.

The focus of the video is on students expressing their thoughts on living and learning at DePaul and in Chicago.

“We intentionally chose an approach that allows the authentic voices of DePaul to articulate our strategy as a way to highlight those personal experiences,” Donovan said. “We invited faculty, staff, students, alumni ­­­­­­­­­— many double demons — and employers from all facets of the university community to share their experiences with DePaul.”

But Donovan said coming up with this branding strategy did not happen overnight.

“This strategy is based on years of talking with our various audiences about what makes DePaul unique,” she said.

Vanessa Cadavillo, president of the Student Government Association (SGA), is featured in the video. She said she became involved after previous SGA President Matthew von Nida recommended her.

“It was a one-time interview in which I was asked several questions about my experience at DePaul pertaining to the mission, urban campus, academic experience, social experience and so on,” she said. “I was asked by the folks in Enrollment Management and Marketing, specifically in Strategic Marketing and Branding, to share my DePaul story.”

Part of the branding strategy also includes a Twitter hashtag, #DePaulWorldReady, to encourage all members of the DePaul community to share their own stories.

Cadavillo said SGA has collaborated with Strategic Marketing and Branding on the project and has taken on the role of pushing out #DePaulWorldReady to the student body. Part of this includes a campaign for students to take a photo of themselves with the caption “I am an urban educated _____________ and ready for the world!”

“This allows students to fill in the blank with their major, career aspiration, hobby, pretty much whatever they’d like to identify themselves as and take a photo,” she said.

Adriana Kemper, associate vice president of operations for SGA, also appeared in the video and said it accurately represents DePaul’s educational experience.

“They specifically mentioned how our social values are integrated within the classroom and students’ personal lives,” she said. “I think it gives an excellent representation of the DePaul student body, how we value diversity, acceptance and post-collegiate opportunities.”

Donovan said the concept of “urban education” is really something her department wanted the video to convey to students.

“DePaul has always had a very strong connection to Chicago and vice versa,” she said. “Those connections to the people and resources of a world class city translate into real benefits for our students, alumni and employers. We often hear our students and alumni talk about the benefit of being exposed to many different people, cultures and ideas.”

Donovan said this kind of exposure has served DePaul graduates well out in their respective career fields.

“Those experiences created a richer learning environment for them,” she said. “Employers value hiring professionals who are exposed to and undaunted by the complex global world we live in.”

But Donovan said the thing that makes DePaul stand out the most  from other universities in the city is its Vincentian mission.

“The respect for others, the eye toward social responsibility and the focus on doing the right thing every time, permeates the lived experience at DePaul,” she said.

Donovan said this defining characteristic is what is called “our ethos.”

“People feel it, but have a hard time articulating exactly what it is because it creates such an emotional connection to the university,” she said.

Kemper said the video gives a message of openness and pride to the DePaul community.

“Every post that I read regarding the video explained how DePaul has impacted their life and how proud they were to attend this university,” she said. “We truly go to an innovational university that fosters a community that I don’t think you can find at any other college.”

The video has currently been viewed over 3,600 times on YouTube. Donovan said the video has received a positive response from the university community.

“The message has really resonated with many people, and they are excited to have DePaul’s amazing story showcased,” she said. “Already, the video series are being incorporated into new employee training, new student orientations, as well as other university events.”

Because of the video’s success, Donovan said the department will be launching three follow-up videos later this year.

Cadavillo said she’s happy to see the video becoming popular among the extended DePaul community.

“I’ve seen this video shared a great amount on social media by alumni and current students and often times the captain describes how proud they are to be a Blue Demon or DePaul student,” she said. “That’s a great thing to see ­— a video that has such a strong message resonate with so many people who have been associated with DePaul.”