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Herbst discusses plans for university rebranding

Faculty expansion, new technology park and university rebranding in store for UConn

By Jackie Wattles
On April 4, 2013

University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst delivered her second annual "State of the University" address on Thursday, and spoke about faculty expansion, plans for a new technology park, and UConn's rebranding.

Herbst, who became the UConn's 15th president in 2011, said UConn has long been plagued with a marketing problem.

"UConn is an institution that has been under-communicated to itself and the outside world for a long time," Herbst said. "It hurts us. We need to broadcast who we are, or we will waste away."

Herbst said the university has plans to begin use of a single, primary "word mark" for the institution: a simple UConn banner. Herbst said our UConn nickname is an endearing one, made popular through the success of athletics teams, and should be advertised as a point of pride. Herbst said the word mark will be phased in gradually to appear on signage, letterheads, websites and banners.

On April 18, the athletic department will unveil the new husky mascot logo designed for UConn by Nike. The new mascot logo has been the source of controversy and speculation in recent weeks, but Herbst said the new mascot will not look "mean" or "snarling."

"He will be rendered as the sleek beautiful animal that a husky really is," Herbst said.

A cornerstone of Herbst's initiatives at UConn is her plan to hire 500 tenure-track faculty members over the next five years. The hires, called "Faculty 500," will be done partly in "cluster hires," where new faculties are brought on in groups to a specific department. According to Herbst, 76 new faculty members have already been hired and 35 more will begin in the coming months.

"These incredible recruitments, stealing senior faculty from North Carolina, Virginia, Miami, Maryland, John Hopkins, Duke, happen because of the excellent faculty we have here already," Herbst said.

The hires will be across many disciplines at the university, but Herbst said focusing on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs are essential to bolstering UConn's role as a research institution.

As initiatives like Next Generation Connecticut - a $1.5 billion proposed investment by the state in developing science, technology, math and engineering programs - and plans for a new 900,000 square foot technology park take shape, Herbst said UConn is put on the "cusp of an extraordinary era." The STEM initiatives all aim to put UConn in the top 10 research institutions nationally, a goal Herbst has worked closely with Connecitcut Governor Dannel Malloy on.

But despite the focus on STEM programs, which is largely due to the enormity of the monetary investment needed to make progress in these programs, Herbst said she want to simultaneously invest in the social sciences and humanities.

"We'll not pit the sciences and engineering against other disciplines," Herbst said. "At the end of the day, these fields are actually more important than anything that happens in the lab. If we don't have strongly held values and ethics [...] all the science and engineering in the world will mean nothing to society at all."

Herbst said the state of the university is "very strong, but it's not a time to be smug ... I'm confident that, years from now, when [UConn Center of Oral History Director] Bruce Stave writes his next big history of the University, it is very likely that this moment will be seen as among the most exciting and most critical moments at the university."

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