Differentiate and distinguish: Putting MSVU on the map

Amber Ciolfe

Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU) has a lot to offer its students. While I’ve found the university is not well known across Canada, I believe it deserves to be. As an out-of-province student who is new to the Mount, I know first-hand that the university has very low participation engaging with prospective students outside Atlantic Canada. MSVU needs to target Canadian students more effectively by differentiating itself. By highlighting the public relations (PR) program, the Mount can more effectively draw students from all over Canada.

As a transfer student from the University of Ottawa, attending Mount Saint Vincent University was never a part of my plan. This largely was because until a year ago, I did not know the Mount existed. It was not until a friend at Dalhousie University, mentioned the school that I discovered the public relations program.

Making the switch was a difficult decision, but getting a good idea about the perceptions and impressions that surrounded the Mount was even harder. With no prior knowledge of the university, I was ready to absorb whatever I could find.

In my attempt to establish the reputation of MSVU, I discovered that no one in my life knew about the school either. When asking my friends, family, and coworkers, I quickly became familiar with the question, “wait, what’s the school called again?”

I began my own research on MSVU in order to make a informed decision on whether to transfer. I found that MSVU had the first English-speaking public relations program in Canada, which began 35 years ago.[1] It was also one of the first universities to be given the seal of approval from the Canadian Public Relations Society [2] and the only Canadian university to offer a Masters in Public Relations [1]. Clearly, MSVU has one of the most established PR programs in Canada, so why don’t more Canadians know about it? Shouldn’t a school with a great PR program be better at reputation management?

MSVU’s 2012 institutional analysis for enrolment statistics shows 13 per cent of the university’s student population is from an international country while students from outside Atlantic Canada comprise 8 per cent of the student population. The Mount aims to be diverse, but I do not believe the Mount needs more international students to achieve diversity. Canada’s multiculturalism allows universities to be diverse and educate Canadians.

A shift in Nova Scotia’s demographics has led the number of high school students to decline, which will impact enrolment at MSVU from within the province. It is time for the Mount to begin communicating with more prospective Canadian students.

Since 2010, the funding from the provincial government for universities has increasingly declined. [3] This has caused universities to reconsider the allocation of resources and how programs are offered. MSVU has indicated that it has become increasingly important to support programs with enrolment growth.[3] The institutional analysis also shows there has been significant growth in MSVU’s professional programs and a decrease in other programs. Therefore, it seems appropriate to consider a new emphasis on the PR program that is a part of professional studies.

With changes in the external environment, it is important to allocate resources in order to connect and communicate with a broader range of Canadian students. The emphasis on the PR program would be a method to set apart the Mount from other universities.

MSVU offers students a PR program with more history and credibility than other PR programs at larger universities. That, in combination with our great student-to-professor ratio could be the most effective way to position and differentiate from other universities to put MSVU on the map. With increased emphasis on targeting Canadian students outside Atlantic Canada, MSVU can begin to build a national reputation. This change will make it easier for students, like myself, to determine whether the Mount should be a part of their future.

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References

1. Quick facts. (2013, January). Retrieved from http://www.msvu.ca/en/home/aboutus/home/QuickFacts.aspx

2.  Post-secondary education program recognition. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.cprs.ca/education/recognition.aspx

3. 2012-13 Stats At A Glance: Mount Saint Vincent University [PDF document]. (2012-2013). Retrieved from http://www.msvu.ca/en/home/aboutus/home/institutionalanalysis/enrolmentdata.aspx

4. Historical Enrollment Trends [PDF Document].  (2011). Retrieved from http://www.msvu.ca/en/home/aboutus/home/institutionalanalysis/enrolmentdata.aspx