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multipliers are,” she said—in
other words, who is most
likely to pass the word about
WGU Indiana.
Then there’s generating
“earnedmedia”—coverage
due to an event. On the day
that this reporter visited, for
instance, Barber was on the
phone withWGU Indiana’s
public relations representative,
hammering out details of the
school’s upcoming graduation
commencement. She wanted
to make sure the Indianapolis
news bureaus got a press
release, that the Associated
Press received a photo, and
that local radio stations were
alerted about graduates from
their areas. How about a post-
commencement e-newsletter? And had there been any “bounce” from
the radio interview she did last week?The school now has 125 friends
on Facebook, she mentioned, adding ruefully, “That’s pathetic.”
Then she was on to an e-mail from the vice president of workforce
development at Vincennes University, letting her know that both
the school’s president and
provost liked her idea to
partner with Vincennes,
which was founded in 1801,
to offer tuition discounts
and an application fee
waiver to their graduates
who want to earn more
advanced degrees through
WGU Indiana. “That rocks!”
Barber exclaimed, delighted.
Her plan is to promote the
relationship as Indiana’s newest university partnering with Indiana’s
oldest.
Also on her agenda that day: finishing up paperwork sealing a
deal with Dollars for Scholars, which provides money to college-
bound high school seniors, to promoteWGU Indiana to their parents.
Through this new sponsorship, parents of Dollars for Scholars
recipients who want to return to college are eligible for scholarships
fromWGU Indiana. The idea is to tap into families that obviously
already value education, Barber said.
Meanwhile, she was preparing for a web-seminar with Indiana’s
Department of Workforce Development, so that their employees
could promote the school to the thousands of displaced and
unemployed workers they counsel. Barber is also crafting a pledge
for a coalition of Indiana companies who would help promoteWGU
Indiana to their employees, and promise to consider hiringWGU
Indiana graduates.
“We’re going deep with our relationships with leaders of the state,”
Barber said. “And that is the advantage we have as a state model.”
—KathyWitkowsky
“I am on a campaign to help Hoosiers
get educated,” says Allison Barber,
chancellor of WGU Indiana. “We’re
selling a life-changing experience.”
Allison Barber
WGU Indiana’s chancellor leads a public
relations campaign
A
llison Barber is back in her home state of Indiana after 18
years inWashington, D.C., and she’s fired up about her position
as the first chancellor of WGU Indiana, which the governor has
dubbed the state’s “eighth university.”
Her job description is as non-traditional asWestern Governors
University, the nonprofit, online, competency-based institution she’s
working for, which administersWGU Indiana’s programs. She doesn’t
deal with academics. She’s meant tomarket WGU Indiana to potential
students, academic partners and employers, in the process transforming
it into a major player within the state’s educational landscape.
So Barber’s speech is peppered with phrases that most chancellors
have never uttered: force multipliers; earnedmedia; and of course,
“campaign”—not a political campaign, but a public relations one.
“I amon a campaign to help Hoosiers get educated,” Barber
explained. In particular, she’s trying to convince adults with some
postsecondary education to return to school and complete their
degrees, or earn new ones. “We’re selling a life-changing experience,”
she said. “That’s not an easy sell.”
But it’s the sort of challenge that Barber embraces. A former teacher
who has run her own public relations firm, served as deputy assistant
secretary of defense for internal communications as well as Department
of Defense public liaison, and helped theWhite House establish
communications in Iraq, there’s not much that Barber likes more than
work.
“I love trying to make a difference,” said Barber. She was slightly
baffled when she first returned to the midwest, where people take the
weekends off, waiting until Monday to return calls. “I thought my
iPhone was broken,” she recalled, laughing.
The pace of life may be slower in Indiana, but Barber, who started
as chancellor at the end of May, does not appear to have adjusted
her speedometer. She uses her iPhone plus twoMacintosh laptop
computers, which sit side by side on her desk in her tenth-floor
downtown Indianapolis
office, to keep tabs on
WGU Indiana’s million-
dollar marketing campaign,
which includes online, bus,
radio, billboard, print and
television ads.
“Eyeballs matter,”
Barber said. So she has
made sure that WGU
Indiana has been visible
in the community, with
tables at the Indiana State
Fair, the Gary South Shore
Air Show, the Black Expo,
the TechPoint Innovation
Summit, and on the
community college and hospital campuses. Barber has spoken at the
Indiana Association of Cities and Towns andmet with the Indiana
congressional delegation, and plans to speak at chambers of commerce
and Rotary Club meetings. “We’re trying to figure out where the force
Alison Barber’s job is
to market WGU Indiana
to potential students,
academic partners and
employers, transforming
it into a major player
within the state’s
educational landscape.
WGU Indiana’s million-
dollar marketing
campaign includes
online, bus, radio,
billboard, print and
television ads.