New UMass Provost Values Marketing as an Administrator and Author
October 16, 2014
"Why should a university leader think about marketing?" UMass Amherst's Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Katherine Newman asked students during her October visit to Isenberg's Fundamentals of Marketing class, taught by Department Head Bruce D. Weinberg and Professor Easwar Iyer. "We are in a market, a competitive landscape," she emphasized. "Our aim, she added, "is to attract the best and the brightest students. You are a very select group."
To that end, the university's reputation is critical, Newman continued. When she asked students to identify hallmarks of the campus's reputation, they noted its diversity, breadth (80 majors), affordability, and its excellent business school. "All of those things matter," Newman affirmed.
"In marketing the university, we also have to find the right channels," she added. At Johns Hopkins, where Newman had most recently been Dean of Arts and Sciences, she had to raise $55 million each year, much of it from alumni. Unfortunately, the campus's principal alumni magazine, although well-written, favored text and white space over graphics. "Alumni were throwing it in the waste basket," she confessed. Newman and her team redesigned the publication with eye-catching, full-page graphics and a bit less prose. "Sometimes less more," she emphasized.
An Anthropological Skill Set
Trained as an anthropologist and the author of 13 books--many of which employ anthropological fieldwork in tackling contentious social issues*--Newman deploys those skills as an administrator as well. They include, she said, a focus on communities and on how systems work, problem solving and diagnosis, and getting into the heads of alumni and other stakeholders.
Newman's self-described role as an "amateur marketer" extends to her promotion of her own books. Unlike many academics, she often shoots for a broad audience, embracing a general readership as well as academics. Her books, especially those that she entrusts to commercial publishers, frequently sell in the 20,000 to 30,000 range. In support of those titles, "I've done a lot of Op-Eds as well as TV and radio spots," she told the students. "That has included four or five appearances on PBS News Hour." The bottom line, she emphasized, is that "I'm looking for publishers that do the very best marketing."
Although Newman was educated at the University of California at San Diego and the University of California at Berkeley, she has spent the lion's share of her academic career at private universities--Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, and Johns Hopkins. Still, she underscored: "This [UMass Amherst] is the real world of higher education--public higher education." And doing some target marketing of her own with her student audience, she pledged: "I want the university to create opportunities for your upward mobility. I want you to remember this experience for the rest of your life and to be excited to give back as alumni."
*Newman's latest book is After Freedom: The Rise of the Post-Apartheid Generation in South Africa (2014: Beacon Press).