Developing and launching a new brand is one of the most exciting things that can occur for any organization. For a 125-year-old institution that has no defined brand, it is exhilarating…though perhaps just a bit terrifying for those in charge of the process. After all, this is more than a logo and a slogan. This is putting into words all the Academy is and all it aspires to be. As we move forward in the competitive world of boarding school marketing, we realize that Randolph-Macon Academy needs to truly embrace the idea of branding.
At 125 years of age, the entire Academy family is devoted to the college-prep mission, a mission that has existed since the school’s founding in 1892. The Academy proudly added a military component in 1917, but continued to focus on that college-prep mission. We have built a strong college counseling program and a college-prep program that has resulted in 100% of graduates being accepted to college, with over $6.6 million in college scholarship offers each year. Yet the public perception of military schools remains somewhat negative, which has continued to impact enrollment and the perception of R-MA in general. Over the years, this has resulted in internal questioning—are we college-prep or military? Should we keep the military program? Is it helping or harming? And what about the Middle School, which has been a civilian program since it opened in 1995?
When given the opportunity to conduct a branding study, Director of Enrollment Management Clare Dame and Director of Communications Celeste Brooks eagerly accepted the challenge. Ms. Dame created an RFP (Request for Proposals) that was sent to a number of highly recommended branding and marketing firms. The winning proposal came from Creosote Affects, a Maryland-based company that specializes in working with educational institutions.
“We chose Creosote Affects in large part because of their thorough discovery process,” explained Ms. Dame. “Several other firms wanted to take a strictly survey-based approach and/or handle things through video meetings. It almost felt as if they had been doing this for so long, they already had a set expectation of what they’d hear and this was just going to be another job. Creosote was excited to work with us. They wanted to come spend time on campus, talk to people, sit in on classes, and truly get a feel for what Randolph-Macon Academy is. And that’s what we needed, because we wanted every audience, from current students to alumni, from faculty to parents, to have the opportunity to be heard.”
Creosote’s process was thorough and personal. They reviewed R-MA documentation and statistics, acted as “secret shoppers” to see how the R-MA admission process worked (as well as the admission process of some of the Academy’s key competitors), and reviewed the programs of R-MA as well as other schools in the area. They looked at national statistics and reports from organizations such as the National Association of Independent Schools. They conducted two days of on-campus interviews and discussion groups with students, parents, teachers, administrators, staff, board members, and alumni, then returned to conduct workshops with various on-campus groups. They toured campus with a student and attended extracurricular activities. And they followed up with online surveys of these constituent groups to gather even more opinions.
What came about was the conclusion that it is the unique combination of Air Force Junior ROTC and college-prep that sets Randolph-Macon Academy apart from its competition. The blend of military leadership training–used in a welcoming, thoughtful way, not a boot-camp manner–and a superior college-prep program sets our graduates up for success. And from that discovery came a thought-provoking slogan that manages to embody everything R-MA:
THE POWER OF RISE.
“Rise” is not just an action at Randolph-Macon Academy. It is a mindset—an attitude the academy embodies every day. It represents the willpower and self-discipline of the Randolph-Macon Academy student. “The Power of Rise” is hard work—the type of struggle that does not always end in success, but always results in a rewarding sense of accomplishment. It is a characteristic, a trait found within the very core of the most successful individuals. And students don’t develop this “rise” alone; they support each other on the journey. Down the road, when a Randolph-Macon Academy graduate reaches their moment to be tested, they call upon the rise within and overcome.
For those thinking that the tagline should read “The Power to Rise,” let us explain. The unexpected structure represents an example of anthimeria, a literary device in which a word’s part of speech is used in an uncommon way. While it would be more common to see “rise” as an infinitive verb, in this structure the noun form delivers the message. In “The Power of Rise,” the use of anthimeria serves two purposes; it teases the reader’s curiosity and better expresses the willpower within Randolph-Macon Academy students.
Already, The Power of Rise has been exemplified over and over on campus this year. The Academy has added an Innovation Lab at the Middle School that supports coding, robotics, and cross-curricular projects. An unmanned aerial vehicle class, an entrepreneurship class, and biotechnology have been added at the Upper School. The school is moving quickly towards a one-to-one program; the staff and faculty have all received MacBook Pros and there are several carts of MacBooks and iPads in classroom buildings on campus, with the expectation that by the fall of 2018 we will be issuing a computer to each student.
The Middle School has embraced a Junior Leadership program, allowing students more training and opportunities for responsibility in the dorms and as school representatives. Just appointed this past summer, Leadership and Character Chairman Mike Starling ‘88 has quickly developed a curriculum that promotes characteristics of strong leaders who demonstrate virtue and integrity, developing Leadership Challenge Weekends that have attracted dozens of students. Science teacher Nick Bongio applied for and won a grant from Toshiba to purchase equipment for the new Biotechnology class, and Air Force Junior ROTC Instructor Stephen Pederson obtained his ham radio license, which will allow him to re-start R-MA’s ham radio club and possibly even one day talk to astronauts on the ISS. Meanwhile, the R-MA Middle School soccer team won the Valley Middle School Soccer Championship, and the Middle School girls’ cross-country team won its first championship. The Middle School attended a FIRST® LEGO® League competition in November and took home a first-place trophy in the research category. Jon Yue ‘19 flew his first powered solo flight on December 1st and plans to obtain his private pilot certification before the end of the school year. The varsity soccer team defeated the #6 team in the state on its way to earning the runner-up title in the Delaney Athletic Conference.
Every day on campus, the R-MA family passionately pursues The Power of Rise. It is the power of intellect, of creativity, of innovation.
It is the rallying cry that inspires and unites us.
NOTICE OF NONDISCRIMINATORY POLICY AS TO STUDENTS Randolph-Macon Academy admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.