The Scarlet & Black

The Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell rides wave of publicity

Since the beginning of the academic year, Grinnell College has been featured in two segments on The Today Show and several articles in the New York Times and other major newspapers, and the Huffington Post recently published a column by President Raynard Kington about the importance of a liberal arts education.

This publicity is out of character for the school, but the administration is pleased by the coverage.

“I thought it was a great piece for a couple of reasons,” Kington said. “Whenever our college is discussed in a positive light in the national media, it’s a good thing.”

Grinnell has long struggled with low national recognition, despite being regarded as one of the nation’s best liberal arts institutions by U.S. News and World Report. In the most recent strategic plan, the College outlined its plan to not only strengthen the public profile of Grinnell, but also highlight the “value of a liberal arts education.” This emphasis on value was similarly echoed in Kington’s recent op-ed in the Huffington Post.

The segments on The Today Show and The New York Times: The Choice Blog sought to take an inside look at the admissions process. In the first, Dean of Admissions Seth Allen talked to high school students in New York and in the second, the admissions department as a whole was featured as it perused applications.

A recent article in the New York Times, Recruiting in China Pays Off for U.S. Colleges, discussed the challenges that faced Grinnell’s admissions department as it tried to decide on Chinese applicants. In order to be competitive with other applicants, some Chinese students spend large amounts of money on brochures and other application supplements, which are usually ignored by the admissions department. The problem has increased over the last year, as the number of Chinese applicants to Grinnell has surged following Allen’s recent recruiting trips there.

The New York Times also ran another article, Students, Welcome to College; Parents, Go Home, about students moving in to campus which featured Grinnell.

Allen denied that the College was economically motivated in its recent outreach, but did note that the number of admission applications overall had been stagnant for some time and even dipped in the past year.

“Our mission is to make sure people are aware of the great undergraduate experience you can get at a liberal arts college,” Allen said.

To reach out to media, Grinnell uses both the public relations firm CooperKatz, which was founded by a Grinnell alumnus, and its own Office of College and Alumni Relations. The latter works specifically on building personal relationships with journalists that they hope will lead to the College being mentioned in relevant articles.

The piece in the New York Times originated through one of these casual discussions between its writer Jacques Steinberg and Director of Communications Kate Worster, which led to Grinnell being featured in a story about Chinese admissions to the College, according to Worster. When Steinberg had a subsequent opportunity to appear on the Today Show to talk about college admissions, he again arranged for the College to be featured.

President Kington’s article in the Huffington Post came out of similarly unstructured discussions with media outlets. While Kington will not contribute on an ongoing basis to that publication, he did say that several news organizations had expressed an interest in publishing further pieces by him.

“We’re often appealing because we’re not in New York; we offer a different type of place. I think that’s why people think about us a lot. We are a first-rate school and we’re receptive to the press, and we give them a view outside of their own little world,” Kington said. “I think it’s good when the press views your institution as being open and thoughtful and willing to engage.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *