When students think of Ryerson, they think of a technology-rich environment, focus on entrepreneurship and convenient downtown location.

At least, this is the kind of feedback Ryerson is hoping for, as the university seeks comments from students as part of a new branding initiative aimed at better recruitment of prospective students, donors and volunteers.

“We’re proud of what we’re doing and we want to be able to communicate it in the best way possible,” said Erin McGinn, associate vice-president of communications, government and community engagement for Ryerson.

The university is getting busy gathering students’ impressions on Ryerson’s strengths and weaknesses through a survey that will be sent out sometime next week, said Cathy Parry, Ryerson’s director of marketing and creative services, in an email.

The questionnaire will probe what makes the school unique compared to other universities, wrote Parry. For example, one question asks respondents to rate a list of characteristics — from market-oriented programs to walkable campus, Wi-Fi access to accomplished alumni — influencing their decision to come to Ryerson. Another question simply asks students to list five areas they feel Ryerson is best known for.

“We’re proud of what we’re doing and we want to be able to communicate it in the best way possible.”

Although Ryerson often surveys its students (right now, there are consultations underway regarding the school’s new academic plan), McGinn said this is the first time the university has attempted to identify a brand.

“I’ve been here almost 10 years and this is the first time I’ve been made aware of it,” she said. “I have some colleagues that have been here 15, 20 years who’ve said we really haven’t undertaken anything this comprehensive.”
Part of the reason for doing it now is competition, she said.

“The majority … of the universities in Canada, we have noticed, have been doing these exercises,” said McGinn. “It’s a very competitive marketplace out there.”

Western University underwent a brand makeover in 2012 when it changed its name from the University of Western Ontario.

For McGinn, Ryerson’s branding isn’t about changing its image altogether. It’s about working with the community to better understand how students identify with the school so they can design their recruitment material accordingly.

“It’s not as if Ryerson’s going to go from what we are known as — real world experience, societally-relevant education —to a medical health facility,” said McGinn. “It’s really an opportunity for us to get a better read on what are the perceptions.

The questionnaire will be sent out to 10,000 Ryerson students.

Results are expected to be out in November.

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on October 9, 2013.

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