A Recruiting White Paper for Academic ProgramsDocument Transcript
Brian J. McNely
Rhetoric and Writing Studies
University of Texas at El Paso
Developing the Undergraduate Major in Rhetoric and Writing Studies: A Recruiting
This report moves from a general survey of the problems and responsibilities of academic
recruiting to suggest a holistic approach to the selection, retention, and development of
undergraduate students in the University of Texas at El Paso’s new Rhetoric and Writing
Studies major. The recruiting plan suggested in this report rests upon a foundation of five
major components, each of which is related to, and in turn builds upon that which
precedes it. In conjunction with this white paper are two related components: suggestions
for marketing and active recruiting that act as scaffolding for the general recruiting plan,
and a curriculum story that envisions student reaction to some of the material suggestions
from the report.
Why should any academic department, program, or major have a recruiting plan? And should
they want one, what would it consist of?
These are simple questions that beg complex answers, questions that many academics are loathe
to ask and grapple with. Academia exists in a kind of gray area between business and non-profit
worlds; certainly, most in our field would acknowledge the increasing corporatization of higher
education, and a great many would also seek to distance themselves from such events, eschewing
as vulgar terms like “recruiting,” “branding,” and “marketing.” This report does not attempt to
argue for the validity of either position (or to even foster such a binary), but to instead deal with
the material reality that our institution and department faces an imminent problem: a new major
with no students.
So, the answer to the first question begins rather simply: the Rhetoric and Writing Studies
Program in the Department of English needs a recruiting plan in order to attract students to the
newest concentration for English majors. Unlike the recently piloted undergraduate major in the
Teaching of English, the new Rhetoric and Writing Studies major has no clear “natural” or
“built-in” demographic of current and potential students. Perhaps a more important reason for
answering the first question (one that is unfortunately beyond the scope of this report) is the lack
of a concrete recruiting plan for current graduate programs in Rhetoric and Writing Studies.
Therefore, the program, and more broadly the Department of English, needs a recruiting plan
that attracts undergraduate students to the new RWS major while aligning techniques and
philosophies with the current graduate programs to create intellectually and demographically
robust enrollments across degree plans.
Answering the second question—what would such a plan consist of—is the general focus of this
report. To begin answering this question, the Rhetoric and Writing Studies program must begin
by embracing a general philosophy of recruiting and selection. This philosophy, it must be
admitted, may grow from sheer material necessity, looping back to the realities of answering this
report’s initial inquiry. Yet this is no small matter; faculty, staff, and students currently involved
with the program need to be made aware of the general environment, and subsequently
persuaded to embrace an ethos of student identification, edification, and selection (ideas that will
be explained in more detail below). In other words, those currently affiliated with the RWS
program must recognize and articulate the general problem, and must “buy in” to the idea that
recruiting is essential to the overall health of the program. One approach to a more fully realized
recruiting philosophy is suggested by this report, but the fundamental realization and articulation
of the problem and potential solutions must be the basis of such a philosophy.
The remainder of this white paper is concerned with developing everyday actions that support
the overall recruiting plan, which is based on the following five interdependent components:
RWS Recruiting and Selection
Retention and Development
In brief, each component of the RWS Recruiting and Selection Plan should be seen as
contributing to an interdependent, holistic ecology of growth and development; together, these
nodules create an ethos of being and doing as a program that continually and purposefully
recruits and selects new students.
As stated above, the plan begins with a fundamental philosophy of recruiting. This philosophy is
then subsumed and integrated among the five core components of the plan, beginning with the
establishment and proliferation of a general Program Identity. Integral to such an idea is the
importance of an organizational narrative. Dissemination of the organizational narrative, and
thus the Program Identity, occurs in strategic branding and marketing efforts (many of which are
interpersonal) across the campus and in the broader community (and, of course, online).
Archival Sites include those places, both material and virtual, where we encounter current and
potential students and interact with them. These spaces are “archival” in the sense that they
reflect the Program Identity (brand) while always offering information (edification) about the
program, the major, the discipline, research, etc. These spaces are then envisioned as contact
points for current and potential students, where they can learn and interact outside of the formal
A Recruiting Methodology permeates each of the five components explored in this report, but a
specific mode of active recruiting and selection is given more detailed consideration. This
includes the tracking and compilation of quantifiable data that reflects recruiting activity within
the program, and the concomitant strategic engagement of that data.
Strategic and effective Recruiting and Selection of undergraduates extends across and beyond
campus, and this report considers the ways in which relationships may be forged across
disciplines and across the community to raise the profile of the program’s identity while
attracting talented and motivated students to the new major.
Finally, an effective Recruiting and Selection plan must extend beyond front-end activity to
retain and develop our undergraduate students, positioning them well for both academic and
Continual, strategic, and responsible implementation of the five core components that are
discussed in more detail below will provide a means to begin answering both questions that serve
as the impetus for this report. More importantly, a recruiting philosophy buttressed by a strong
Program Identity and active Recruiting Methods will help attract and select undergraduate
students that will foster a thriving and vital new major on campus.
“The processes whereby an organization strategically adopts a new identity
should be seen as a highly complex, intricately managed, and highly problematic
task. This is the function of organizational change: to affect the deeply rooted
cultures of an organization by using stories to alter the organization’s visible sign
of those cultures, its identity.”
Brenton Faber, Community Action and Organizational Change
The Rhetoric and Writing Studies Program at the University of Texas at El Paso needs a new
story. Certainly, it already has a multitude of stories, interesting and compelling narratives about
the discipline, about research, about graduate school, about other programs, and so on. But what
the program does not have is a unified identity narrative.
Critics will be quick to point out that such a narrative could never exist, that attempts to construct
one are foolhardy, and that positioning the program within such a metanarrative of identity and
culture goes against the kind of ethos we as a group continually uncover and argue against. But
the kind of identity narrative that supports the development of a new major, and for that matter a
new and soon to be revamped graduate program, is absolutely essential.
Faber notes that “the term ‘organizational identity’ points to those signifiers that enable people
within organizations to situate themselves as distinct from those working in other organizations.”
The new major in Rhetoric and Writing Studies, while situated comfortably within the
Department of English, must still be qualitatively different than the Department’s other two
majors in some way. What is the narrative of that difference? Moreover, what is the narrative of
that difference across campus, beyond the other two majors in English?
If a student (graduate or undergraduate) interested in RWS were to informally discuss the new
major with three faculty members and two graduate students currently in the program, it is
almost a certainty that she would receive five separate narratives about the strengths of the
program, the kinds of research that can be performed in the discipline, the situatedness of RWS
as a major in English, the program track, and any number of other important characteristics.
A unified identity narrative does not seek to limit or hide the different epistemologies and
ontologies of research and study in the broader discipline. Instead, the narrative should be seen
as fundamentally programmatic, reflecting the identity of RWS at UTEP for outsiders.
Disciplinary breadth and variety could be celebrated within this identity narrative. But in order
to recruit new and talented students, and related to that goal, in order to develop brand identity
and a marketing strategy, the RWS program must begin with a narrative that all in the program
can at least embrace and support at some fundamental level. As Faber notes, “change, as an
identity function, occurs as a communicative project.”
Actually formulating such an identity narrative is beyond the ken of this report, but there are
some general parameters that should be considered:
o Current faculty, graduate students, and interested undergraduates should form an ad hoc
committee that meets over a series of sessions to consider the program’s identity
o The Program Director, Associate Director, and Past Director, while not wielding
tyrannical control of the process, should still carry proportionate weight in the
discussions. In short, the identity narrative cannot become “hijacked” by
dissenting faculty or over-zealous graduate students, and all should be apprised of
the process up front. Dissenting faculty need to find ways to contribute to the
identity narrative, making sure their voice comes through, without taking over or
completely opting out of the process. As stated above, one of the components of
the narrative might be the very resistance to metanarrative.
o Like graduating PhD’s on the job market, everyone involved with the program must
internalize and disseminate two or three versions of the identity narrative, such as:
o A concise, compelling, and persuasive answer to simple questions like “what do
you do,” “where do you work,” “what is rhetoric and writing studies,”—
o and from students, “what does the major consist of,” “why should I study
writing,” “is this different than English/why would I want a degree in English,”
“what can I do with this degree,” etc.
o A longer version of the narrative should also be internalized, so that when
advising a student one-on-one, talking with a colleague in a different discipline, or
speaking to administration or potential community contacts/donors, a more fully
realized and measured version of the program’s identity is disseminated.
o A key to the successful proliferation of an organizational identity narrative is consistency
and repetition. The student in the scenario mentioned above, when encountering an RWS
program with a unified identity narrative, will not hear five separate narratives, but a
consistent and compelling story of the program and of the discipline.
o This student will now hear and see five different personalities coalescing around a
consistent and powerful program identity; these unique personalities will reflect
the diversity of voices and perspectives engaged with and excited by the potential
of the program and the breadth of the discipline. This scenario leaves the student
with a much different feeling than that envisioned above, and more importantly, it
supports a strong recruiting culture.
o As distasteful as it will probably sound, faculty and graduate students currently involved
in the program should be supplied with “talking points,” material examples of the identity
narrative that was created by the group, and answers to FAQ’s that reflect the unified
In short, interested parties must coalesce around a unified program “story,” with the concomitant
agreement and implementation of a unified nomenclature, a consistent “language” with which
current faculty and graduate students describe and discuss the program. This unified narrative is
integrally related to three other crucial sub-components of a successful recruiting plan: the new
Writing Center, Branding, and Marketing.
The latter two sub-components of program identity will be discussed in more detail below, but
RWS at UTEP would do well to consider how the formation of the new Writing Center on
campus might productively coincide with recruiting efforts that stem from a unified program
identity narrative. Ideally, the repetition and proliferation of the identity narrative will have a
“trickle down” effect on ancillary program partners like adjuncts teaching FYC, non-RWS TA’s,
and undergraduate tutors in the Writing Center. The Writing Center, then, becomes an integral
“archival site” (discussed in the next major section) where the story of the program can be told
and active and passive recruiting can productively take place.
Identity Narratives and Branding
The development and proliferation of a unified program identity narrative leads directly into
the consideration of branding that identity, so that Brand Identity and Program Identity
become synonymous and mutually supportive.
For the purposes of illustration, the moniker “RWS” could be seen as a concrete and effective
branding tool that supports the overall identity of the program. In short, RWS refers to the
program while also serving to promote that program as an identifiable brand, shorthand for
the kind of differentiation referenced above by Faber.
As part of the development of the program’s identity narrative, use of the term RWS must
become widespread and ubiquitous. It should literally accompany everything that involves
the program, including signage, letterhead, syllabi, WebCT sites, email signatures, envelopes,
postings on message boards and listserves, websites (both for the program itself, and for
faculty and graduate students), advertising, etc. The program can be referenced through this
brand either by use of the “logo” RWS or by the related Rhetoric and Writing Studies, both
of which should be used liberally to support and inculcate the program identity.
The main purpose of brand identity is to support the differentiation of the organization as
discussed above. More importantly, the strategic and effective use of branding promotes
more widespread dissemination and proliferation of the program’s identity narrative, as
people begin to ask or wonder about RWS. As more people across campus begin to engage
the brand and understand the concomitant narrative, the identity of the program, and thus
opportunities to recruit to that program, likewise proliferate.
Finally, branding is relatively easy to implement. While it depends first upon the very
complex and difficult process of identity narrative formation, it flows from and supports that
narrative in strategic, agile, and consistent ways. Like the broader identity narrative, it
requires “buy-in” from those involved in the program, but the actual implementation of a
brand identity is relatively simple, especially at this comparatively early stage of the program.
Strong branding is predicated upon a strong brand/program identity, which needs to be
developed to support recruiting goals. Also, strong branding requires and ties directly into
effective marketing efforts, described below.
Identity Narratives and Marketing
What follows, again, is not a full marketing plan for the RWS Program, but a discussion of
the importance of marketing in the process of recruiting students to the RWS major and
supporting the burgeoning program identity and brand. To reiterate, change “is a
communicative project,” one that involves visual and virtual elements in addition to verbal
The scaffolding section, included in Appendix A, details some cost-effective marketing
strategies that can be swiftly implemented and that support the brand and program identity
while also promoting interest and “buzz” for the major. These include:
o Viral and guerilla marketing campaigns across campus
o Web-based marketing and electronic email campaigns
o Print-based advertising ideas
Ultimately, the marketing strategy needs to be buttressed by an overall philosophy that is in
alignment with the program narrative and brand identity. The interaction of these three
components should stress differentiation that takes advantage of the situatedness of our
student population, beginning with marketing and branding that is in some measure distanced
from “English” as an overarching discipline. In short, marketing efforts should stress the
interdisciplinary and multilingual ethos of Rhetoric and Writing Studies, beginning with
campaigns in both English and Spanish, directed to both the Humanities and the Sciences.
Such moves in and of themselves would allow RWS to immediately broaden its recruiting
base, allowing for selection and promotion of students not traditionally affiliated with or
naturally amenable to “English.”
Within the context of this report, “archival sites” are simply those places, both physical and
virtual, where faculty and graduate students in the RWS program are likely to encounter
potential and current undergraduate students. These spaces are “archival” in the sense that they
contain, by virtue of their materiality, historical and situated information about the RWS
program. Four primary archival sites are discussed in this section for their potential to also
become sites for student recruitment and selection:
o RWS Program Website
o English Department Reading Room
o Vowell Hall Lobby, 101, and 103
o Campus Writing Center
All four sites should reinforce brand awareness and program identity, and should encourage
“being” in RWS space, with opportunities for student identification, edification, and selection,
terms which are appropriated from a corporate environment reliant upon continual and strategic
recruiting (finance). In brief:
o Identification involves specific interpellation of existing, non-RWS
undergraduate students who might thrive by majoring in our program, or
combining a major in RWS with another discipline. The RWS Program has
one major pool of potential students through our staffing of the FYC Program,
and major-required courses like Workplace Writing and Technical Writing.
Instructors, both in FYC and other undergraduate RWS classes should be
attuned to identifying potential students (this is discussed in more detail in the
o Edification takes place after a student has been identified; at this point faculty
and graduate students should approach the undergraduate student with
appropriate RWS identity narratives, engaging in a dialogic relationship that
fosters awareness and promotion of the program.
o Selection involves the actual promotion of the student as a candidate for
majoring in RWS.
The archival sites referenced above should be places that edification and selection, and to a lesser
extent, identification, continually take place. Much of the edification and familiarity with the
program’s brand and identity can take place in a passive manner in these archival sites. For
example, students who have stopped by Vowell 101 or 103 to conference with instructors will be
made aware of the RWS brand identity; in this sense, the material location acts to support other
branding and marketing efforts that the student may have encountered previous to their visit (see
Appendix B, Curriculum Story, for a fuller example of such awareness and its relationship to
recruiting). These sites, then, like the aggregation of other branding and marketing initiatives,
are fundamentally passive in the sense that they reinforce and inculcate the program identity.
Of the four archival sites mentioned, the Department Reading Room, Vowell Hall, and the
Writing Center are very similar in their scope as it relates to recruiting. These sites can become
places where undergraduate students partner with graduate students and faculty on research
projects in a more relaxed and dialogic environment (one that always reinforces program/brand
awareness and identity). For example, the conference room in Vowell 101 could be the regular
meeting place of an undergraduate student group in RWS (such as an undergraduate iteration of
Frontera Retorica). It is crucial not to underestimate the importance of location for such a
group, as meetings in Vowell would carry an entirely different ethos than those held in Hudspeth
or UGLC, for example.
Likewise, the English Department Reading Room could be staffed once a week for an hour or
two by Frontera Retorica members who are open to facilitating an undergraduate reading group,
consulting with potential majors on their work in classes like 3355 or 3359, or simply to discuss
the challenges and opportunities for studying rhetoric and writing.
Finally, the nascent Writing Center can prove to be a tremendous place for identification,
edification and selection of potential undergraduate students. A large component of effective
recruiting is embodied by continual contact with potential majors, and the combination of these
three sites provides rich opportunities to inculcate program awareness and actually foster active
engagement with the discipline. Graduate students and faculty should be willing to spend time in
the Writing Center, even if just for an hour each week, so that opportunities for interaction with
potential majors are enhanced. Likewise, those same instructors should repeatedly “advertise”
the archival sites available to their students, letting them know when they’ll be there to discuss
student writing, research, or rhetoric in general.
Such moments of repeated contact with potential students in these sites, especially those who
have been previously identified in classes and encouraged to spend time in one or more of the
archival sites mentioned above, are essential to effective and strategic recruiting. Just being in
these sites on multiple occasions over the course of a semester exponentially increases program
and brand awareness in a passive manner, while repeated contact improves the possibilities for
recruitment further still, as students have a chance to interact with faculty, graduate students, and
undergraduates already enrolled in the program.
The RWS Website
The key archival site is the virtual space in which undergraduate students can learn more
about the program’s brand, identity, curriculum, faculty, research, and material benefits of the
major, in a passive, edifying atmosphere that is always available. This is the one archival site
where brand identity, marketing, detailed program information, and the program “story” are
strategically and perpetually aligned, “always on.”
This becomes the “face” of the program, the site where students can return after developing
an interest in RWS that has been piqued by an instructor, by brand awareness, by marketing
efforts, or by involvement in one of the other, physical archival sites. Moreover, branding
and marketing efforts will continually drive students to this site. Previous experiences in
recruiting intensive corporate environments has shown repeatedly that once individuals have
been identified and selected, they will turn to the website as an archival space for more
information about the program that they can retrieve on demand, in a passive environment.
As other programs have shown (see for example UT Austin’s program website
http://www.drw.utexas.edu/drw/undergraduate) the website can also foster active recruiting
Finally, while distinctions between passive and active recruiting have been mentioned
throughout this section, it is important to note that effective use of archival sites engage and
foster both forms of recruiting.
Even more important is the understanding that an effective recruiting plan is contingent
upon both forms of student-program interaction.
Branding, marketing, and the program website are all crucial and significant forms of passive
recruiting. However, the recruiting plan becomes truly effective when these passive initiatives
act as the infrastructure to support and reinforce the continual active recruiting that is essential to
the growth of the major, graduate curricula, and the program as a whole. While the archival sites
in and of themselves act as important forms of passive student engagement, lasting program
development will occur only when those same sites (and supporting branding and marketing
functions) are used actively by the program to recruit new students.
With respect to archival sites, they should be viewed by the program as agile discursive spaces
where passive recruiting can be easily and swiftly transformed into active interactions between
potential students and program partners. The following section explores a methodology for
To this point, the infrastructure of a dynamic program identity aligned with branding and
marketing plans that are made material across campus and in archival sites has been seen as
foundational to a more active and responsive recruiting methodology. This section discusses
ways that the Rhetoric and Writing Studies Program can take advantage of such an architecture
to maximize student selection and promotion within the new major (and beyond).
O. Alfred Granum, primary author and architect behind the professional textbook Building a
Financial Services Clientele, pioneered an approach to insurance and financial services practices
that focused on both the “art and science” of such work. As the managing partner for one of the
largest and most successful financial services operations in the country, he began compiling data
on the daily activity practices of all of his advisors, taking a rigorously empirical approach.
Granum documented his advisor’s activities meticulously over a span of 25 years, completing
major analyses of the data at the 15th, 20th, and 25th years. The results of this longitudinal study
formed the backbone of the “practice administration system” that he developed, a system used in
some form by most of the top financial services firms in the United States to this day. A guiding
tenet of his philosophy was that advisors “‘must know the truth of [their] situation and then take
appropriate action.’ If [they] have no way of determining the truth of [their] practice, [they] will
have no way of determining appropriate action.” In addition, it must be noted that Granum’s
philosophy for building a financial services practice rests with an assumption of writing as
epistemological. In the preface to his widely used text, he encourages neophyte advisors to
outline the entire (270 page) book by hand. “This is the surest way,” he says, “to program your
subconscious and truly learn the material. We learn best when we write down our thoughts.”
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This report does not take the approach that there is a direct correlation between the methods used
to build a financial services practice and the recruitment of students to a new academic major.
However, there are some key features that are analogous and adaptable for our situation in the
Rhetoric and Writing Studies Program, namely:
o A focus on the consistent activities that lead to student recruitment
o A philosophy that recognizes that recruiting is both an art (discursive,
dialogic, rhetorical) and a science (grounded in empirical methods)
o A focus on metacognition in recruiting activity, an awareness of how we go
about recruiting, when we do so, and the recognition of what is successful and
what is not successful
o An emphasis on quantifiable methods and results
An example of the ways that Granum’s longitudinal study proved applicable as a client-building
methodology is evident in his mantra, “10-3-1.” Granum found that the process of bringing new
clients into an advisor’s practice followed predictable and controllable patterns. Working from a
basic premise of “referred-lead prospecting” (a term which denotes that an advisor’s potential
new clients are referred by existing clients or others of similar influence), Granum found that for
every 10 new potential clients referred to an advisor, 3 would agree to meet for an initial
consultation, and 1 would become a client after working with the advisor through the planning
process. These results proved so consistent over Granum’s 25-year study that they became the
basis of his practice management system. In short, by using predictable ratios, advisors could
then structure the daily activities of their practice to capitalize on such data.
The success of Granum’s system was such that many firms began adapting his methodology of
advisor practice development to the recruiting process used to find new and successful advisors.
Again, meticulous longitudinal record-keeping yielded similarly predictable sets of data for
recruiting activity. For example, the most recent data at a major Fortune 100 Insurance and
Investment firm (the same firm at which Granum spent his career, and the firm that continues to
adhere most faithfully to Granum’s method) revealed the following recruiting ratios:
o For every 90 career candidates contacted for initial interviews through internet
job-search engines (such as Monster.com), 1 would eventually become an
advisor for the firm.
o For every 60 career candidates contacted for initial interviews through college
campus recruiting initiatives, 1 would eventually become an advisor.
o For every 45 career candidates contacted for initial interviews by referral from
a current advisor, 1 would eventually become an advisor.
o For every 3 career candidates who successfully completed the company’s
internship program, 1 would transition into a full-time career.
Obviously, such data indicate where recruiters can most productively structure their time and
activity to best foster consistent and robust results. Most recruiters spend time in all four areas
mentioned above (and one other area, “spheres of influence,” a concept discussed in the
following section), but they do so with a keen awareness of their potential for success. Their
activity, then, is structured proportionately, so that they spend more time working on campuses
and with existing advisors, and less time mining the internet.
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To my knowledge, no such longitudinal study has been performed that investigates
programmatic recruiting activity within academia (it can be assumed that some data exists at the
university and college levels, however). Despite the lack of concrete statistical guidance, there is
much that the RWS program can learn from Granum’s methodology for the development of its
First, we know that successful recruiting will be predicated upon active methods. The major
financial services firm from which almost all of the previous data was gleaned is among the most
respected in the world. The company has an extremely strong and lasting brand and
organizational identity, especially among the most affluent cross-section of Americans. But
strong identity, brand awareness, and marketing efforts do not unproblematically translate into
client relationships, or to the easy recruitment of advisors. New clients are procured through
consistent, active methods of identification, edification, and selection/promotion, and similar
approaches are employed for recruiting new advisors. RWS faculty and graduate students will
need to embrace methods of active recruiting in order to attract students to the new major.
Second, in recruiting undergraduates, just as in recruiting financial advisors, some methods will
prove far more successful than others. For example, it would seem that students who are
identified and selected for promotion to the major by caring instructors at the earliest levels of
FYC would be much more likely to choose RWS as a major, or to choose to combine the
program with a major in another discipline. This may be seen as roughly analogous to the 45:1
advisor referral ratio. Likewise, selected High School students who are made aware of the
program by community outreach efforts (these are discussed in more detail in the next section)
would seem to be much more apt to choose RWS once they have made the move to UTEP. In
other words, students who are “referred” and promoted as candidates for the program will be
more likely to embark on the course of study than those we encounter at recruiting fairs, or
through advertising or branding alone.
Third, the current minor in RWS is an area of opportunity that could be transformed from a
recruiting perspective to mimic the 3:1 ratio found in the internship-to-full-time results from
finance noted above. More aggressive promotion of the minor at the earlier stages of lower-
division curricula, especially among business, engineering, science, and pre-law students could
translate into “full-time conversions” from the minor to the major. The idea is that students,
once involved in the program at the curricular level (through the minor), could be consistently
encouraged to “convert” their credits towards the major in RWS, most likely as part of a double-
major course of study.
Finally, Granum’s compilation of predictable data was used specifically to inform daily activity
practices that would promote results. For example, using the 10-3-1 relationship from above,
Granum knew that a typical advisor would need to call approximately 25 to 30 referred leads
each day in order to schedule 5 to 6 initial consultations (remember that 10 referrals will yield 3
initial consultations—so that 25 phone calls to referrals will yield anywhere from 5 to 7 initial
appointments scheduled). While we have no specific data to guide our daily activity in recruiting
new majors, we know from the corporate precedent (and from intuition) that some form of
regular (daily or weekly) recruiting activity will yield recruits. Our practices, therefore, must
incorporate some kind of systematized contact with potential students to promote the program,
and to promote them as majors. Suggestions for such contact are outlined below.
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RWS Information Cards Campaign—A Hypothetical Case Study
The Rhetoric and Writing Studies Program, in conjunction with the Department of English
and the College of Liberal Arts at UTEP, embarked on a fairly extensive branding and
marketing campaign shortly after the implementation of the Doctoral Program in Rhetoric
and Composition. Attractive and striking posters (approximately 11” by 18”) with tear-away
information request cards were placed strategically around campus, and mailed to dozens of
other colleges and universities. In addition, equally striking tri-fold (8 ½” by 11”) brochures
with specific information on the PhD Program were distributed in conjunction with the poster
There is nothing ostensibly “wrong” with this campaign; in fact, it performs in some measure
several of the components recommended by this report, such as the promotion of a program
identity narrative (centered on “intercultural rhetoric” and an “intercultural lifestyle”) through
strategic branding and marketing (of both the program and the university).
Yet this campaign is indicative of the general lack of results that follow recruiting methods
that are primarily or entirely passive. Since the widespread implementation of the campaign,
the program has received exactly 3 information request cards. It’s quite possible that the
campaign has had an impact that we cannot yet quantify (such as current students who’ve
seen the posters and joined the program without sending in the card), but the general lack of
response alone is enough to reinforce the notion that passive recruiting methods must be
buttressed by active recruiting methods. What follows is a hypothetical scenario that re-
visions the existing campaign by employing a more holistic recruiting methodology.
Before mass mailing the posters and brochures, the program makes a few of minor branding
changes. Currently, the posters are clearly branded Rhetoric and Writing Studies, yet the
information cards display an address that elides the program in favor of the Department; there
is no reason why the program cannot be listed under the Department on the reply card, as this
is already the case in email correspondence (see, for example, Kate Mangelsdorf’s email
signature). Also, while the program poster’s title is branded RWS, the accompanying
brochure for the PhD program, which is aligned with the poster in every other way, is titled
Rhetoric and Composition. These may seem like unimportant details, but in branding and
organizational identity, consistency is absolutely essential. Finally, the campaign directs
interested students to the English Department URL; while this makes sense from the
perspective that the program is situated in English, it places an unnecessary (and clumsy)
burden on interested parties to “find” the program online. Prospective students should be
directed to the program website (see again the importance of archival sites) without ambiguity
(this hurts the program’s ethos). Links are displayed prominently on the program site should
a prospective student wish to learn more about the Department or the College of Liberal Arts.
So, the changes start with some brief re-branding, so that all materials are in alignment and
reflect a coherent and consistent program identity. The campaign begins with a small scale
pilot initiative, targeting nearby (within 500-750 miles) universities with MA and
undergraduate programs in Rhetoric, Composition, Writing Studies, Linguistics, and Business
and Technical Communication. At the outset of the campaign, key faculty and graduate
students are identified and asked to help promote the campaign, in close conjunction with
select universities. Those involved include Kate Mangelsdorf, Helen Foster, Beth Brunk-
Chavez, Isabel Baca, Scott Lunsford, and Brian McNely.
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The faculty and graduate students involved are paired with strategic sites as follows:
o Kate Mangelsdorf—University of Arizona
o Helen Foster—University of Houston
o Beth Brunk-Chavez—Texas Tech University (in conjunction with her presentation at
the Computers and Writing Conference)
o Isabel Baca--Tecnológico de Monterrey (in conjunction with her trip with Elaine
o Scott Lunsford—Texas A&M University, Commerce (in conjunction with a
o Brian McNely—University of Memphis (in conjunction with a presentation at RSA)
Several weeks before arrival at each site, contact is made with local programs to arrange a
time to meet with undergraduate and MA-level students; depending on the location and UTEP
contact, the auspices of each meeting may vary. What follows are a few plausible scenarios:
-Beth Brunk-Chavez offers to hold a mini-colloquium with MA students in Technical
Communication at Texas Tech the day before the Computers and Writing Conference. She
discusses a forthcoming Kairos article based on research completed with Shawn Miller
regarding hybrid instruction in composition. After her Q&A session, she passes out
information on RWS at UTEP, and asks for students to fill out and pass back information
cards. In addition, with the support of UTEP’s College of Liberal Arts and the Department of
English, she holds a coffee and tea reception in the afternoon of the first day of the
Computers and Writing conference, specifically for MA students who are presenting. She
engages several students and continues to support the program identity while also giving
away more brochures and information cards. Finally, she personally follows up with emails
to all the students who filled out information cards, involving the director of the program
(who likewise follows up with an introductory email); students are then sent a regular email
newsletter about the program, and encouraged to continue their relationship with UTEP.
-Helen Foster offers to give a talk to the MA students in the University of Houston’s Applied
Linguistics program entitled “From Saussure to Bakhtin: Language Theory and Rhetoric.”
The local program is delighted to bring in a published and respected speaker who requires no
fee, and like Beth Brunk-Chavez, Foster actively engages students at the end of the program,
asking for their completed cards, and following up through repeated electronic contact, in the
same manner as Brunk-Chavez described above.
-While at RSA’s Biennial Conference in Memphis, Brian McNely staffs a UTEP-sponsored
coffee and tea service on the first full day of the event for MA students presenting papers. He
speaks to as many students as possible, providing UTEP give-aways such as coffee mugs, t-
shirts, and pens, while also passing out brochures and asking that information cards be filled
out on-site. Like Brunk-Chavez and Foster, he follows up personally with those he’s made
contact with, involving the director as well. He also invites these graduate students to join
online groups like the Composition and Rhetoric LibraryThing community.
In all three scenarios, passive recruiting methods are supported and made relevant with active
identification, edification, and selection. A key component of successful recruiting is
consistent and repeated contact. The more meaningful contacts with a student, the greater the
likelihood that that student will eventually apply to our program.
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While the hypothetical scenario focuses on active recruiting to the PhD program, it should serve
to illustrate how active methodologies should support passive recruiting initiatives. The
following active methods apply directly to undergraduate recruiting:
o The Classroom:
o Faculty in RWS (including AI’s and TA’s) should make it a point to speak with at
least one student in their FYC, 3355, 3359, Advanced Comp, or Editing classes
each week of the semester. This is the kind of quantifiable activity
(identification) that will lead to recruiting success. In each course, instructors
should focus on purposeful identification, edification, and selection of key
students that are a “fit” for our program.
o “Cross-Sell” with Clusters:
o Business, Engineering, and Science FYC clusters are especially fertile sites for
the promotion of the major. Instructors in these classes should follow the activity
suggested above, and additionally bring in RWS content and outside speakers
(such as the program director) to promote the major as a “double.”
o Advertise the Minor, and follow up:
o Greater promotion of the minor for students in any discipline should be a major
programmatic goal. Instructors need to not only identify and promote potential
students, but also actively follow up, suggesting times when they might meet with
the program director and offering to send an email that introduces the student.
o “Athletic” Recruiting in local High Schools:
o Both faculty and graduate students should be involved in staffing regular
recruiting talks at strategic local High Schools. Magnet schools in the sciences
and health care are immediately congruent with our major, and contact with these
schools and promotion of the program is crucial. For example, we might arrange
to make unabashed recruiting visits to the Silva Magnet twice each semester, with
regular follow up. This mirrors in some way athletic recruiting practices. We
should not shy away from such methods, as these students, by and large, actually
welcome active recruitment.
o Touring UTEP and El Paso:
o In conjunction with High School recruitment, our program should offer to lead
“exclusive” tours of the campus, with prospective students and their
parents/guardians. A 2-hour tour would spend one hour on the UTEP campus,
and another hour focusing on disciplinary-specific content, such as a walking tour
of the Kern neighborhood that explores spatial rhetorics in a palatable manner.
o A Wiki should be established as an online “meeting place” for students that are
being actively recruited, for those who’ve responded with information cards, and
for those we’ve added to our email newsletter list. Current faculty and graduate
students should be frequent contributors, both in answering questions and
discussing the program, and by providing interesting links, images, and articles
that edify our potential students on topics related to RWS.
o Frontera Retorica:
o The graduate RSA group needs to make active recruiting a priority, sponsoring
regular book exchanges, a reading/writing group, or anything else that fosters
contact with undergraduates in one of our archival sites (most likely Vowell 101).
- 15 -
In sum, active recruiting methods should be tailored to situations we know will be productive,
such as repeated contact, classroom selection and “referral,” cross-selling the double major, and
aggressive promotion of the minor (in addition to the major, of course) from the earliest stages of
1311 and 1312. Our program should also stress the compilation of data, so that we can begin to
build a system where recruiting activities can be further refined to suit our programmatic needs.
Finally, program faculty should be held accountable to the director, who should gently and
repeatedly reinforce the need for consistent, active recruiting practices.
As indicated above, several methods of active recruiting may also coincide with community
outreach efforts. While civic engagement is one of the hallmarks of our discipline, community
outreach efforts should be, above all, highly strategic. Any efforts that take time and resources
away from our primary duties to scholarship, teaching, and the development of the program
should be approached carefully, so that they also serve to enhance our profile and feed into other
strategic efforts (such as recruiting).
With respect to recruiting, the first line of outreach should be across the UTEP campus
community. We need to put ourselves into positions where we can take advantage of “spheres of
influence” within our target demographic, in this case undergraduate students. So, while
contacts with business entities will prove extremely helpful in retention and development efforts
(discussed in the following section), such initiatives will do little to provide a consistent stream
of undergraduates who might be interested in our program.
As mentioned above, the potential for “cross-selling” RWS as an attractive and worthwhile
double major for students in business, health sciences, engineering, and the traditional sciences
and social sciences is particularly strong. Community outreach, then, should start with
influential faculty and graduate students in those programs. Each discipline represents a “sphere
of influence,” a particular discourse community that can act to advise and direct students to RWS
as a viable second major or minor. Within those spheres of influence, a concerted effort should
be made by RWS program faculty to develop meaningful relationships with potential “centers of
An ideal center of influence (COI) is someone working in an aligned discipline in either a
faculty, administrative, or graduate role. They should be amenable to RWS, and open to
encouraging students in their own discipline to explore RWS as a productive enhancement to
their chosen course of study. Because of graduate student turnover, the majority of these
relationships should be forged between full-time faculty in each discipline. Like the process for
recruiting undergraduates, developing centers of influence will involve identification of
prospective COI’s, edification (this will be especially important), and selection/promotion.
Faculty should be prepared to devote a portion of resources to developing strong centers of
influence by arranging lunches, talks, or other functions that provide venues for the RWS
program to promote itself. While relationships with strong centers of influence can be initially
difficult to develop, they can also be perpetually productive. A strong COI might refer 10 or 15
new students to the RWS major during each academic year, and a COI with sound (and
- 16 -
developing) knowledge of RWS disciplinary research and methods is likely to promote
exceptional candidates to the program over time, in turn increasing the relevance and profile of
RWS at UTEP.
Aside from disciplines that might provide the program with viable double major and minor
candidates, RWS should also seek to develop centers of influence in other spheres with which
(especially) lower-division undergraduates might have meaningful contact. The University
College and freshman development programs immediately come to mind. Students currently
enrolled in the RWS program, both undergraduate and graduate, should also be seen as potential
COI’s, and as capable of nominating COI’s in other departments or programs where they take
classes and forge relationships. Again, only active engagement in consistent, systematic
recruiting practices will uncover such relationships. Advertising the program alone will not yield
consistent or robust growth.
High School programs should also be seen as potential spheres of influence, and as mentioned
previously, outreach efforts at the secondary level will need to be strategic, consistent, and
particularly edifying for our High School contacts. With that in mind, certain schools and
teachers provide “natural” opportunities for aligned relationships between programs, and
strategic interaction with centers of influence at this level can provide additional results.
At the risk of oversimplifying these community relationships, it must be stressed that COI’s will
not regularly refer prospective students of their own volition. RWS faculty will need to be in
contact with COI’s across campus and in the community on a regular basis. More importantly,
they need to ask COI’s for potential candidates. This seems obvious, but too often recruiting
efforts become stifled by a “hands-off” approach to development, an expectation that the COI is
somehow programmed to offer up, unsolicited, exceptional students.
Finally, community outreach should also involve a concerted effort to increase the visibility and
public understanding of what we do, both across the campus and in the broader population.
Unfortunately, RWS suffers from a lack of visibility, or worse, a fundamental misunderstanding
of our research, methods, and teaching. Active engagement with the community and an
elevation of the program profile is yet another branding and marketing effort that acts as part of
the passive recruiting infrastructure for our more active outreach efforts.
Retention and Development
Any sound recruiting plan must provide support for students who have accepted the challenge of
choosing RWS as a course of study. Granum felt that the rigorous tracking of the daily activity
that forms the foundation of his program was essential to early success and development within
the system, so much so that a related program called RACE (Record Activity in Comparison to
Expectations) evolved to increase the chances for retention and swift development of new
recruits. In short, for firms in corporate environments, recruiting doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t)
end after a recruit decides to join the company.
Strong retention and successful development are especially key to building a thriving program in
academia. Not only must RWS foster and promote robust enrollments in its new major, it must
- 17 -
provide systemic mechanisms to guide students through the major efficiently, while meeting
(and exceeding) benchmarks of academic success (and ideally, promoting interesting scholarship
from our students).
A system of student mentorship should be part of the retention and development architecture that
follows the recruitment of new students to the major. Essentially, tracking their progress is
crucial, something that must extend beyond once-per-semester meetings with the program
director/advisor. By establishing relationships with senior undergraduates, graduate students,
and faculty, more systemic contact is encouraged, helping keep students engaged and on track to
Like the more passive forms of recruiting embodied in a strong program identity and marketing
plan, a successful academic program recursively promotes new student enrollments, especially
when potential students see the material benefits of majoring in RWS, some of which are
The kinds of business and community contacts briefly noted above are essential to retention and
development of students in the major. For example, our program should have an Internship and
Career Placement liaison, so that our students can feel confident in their ability to transition from
the major into the workforce, with desirable and lucrative positions. The University of Arkansas
Little Rock, for example, has a particularly robust internship program
(https://rhetoricandwriting.ualr.edu/internships). Such programs obviously take time and effort
to build, but there is no reason why RWS and the Department of English shouldn’t start making
contacts with local businesses and organizations that will very shortly be seeking the help of our
Similarly, involvement with professional academic conferences will encourage those students
who choose to pursue graduate work in the field. The University of Arizona, Texas Tech, the
University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M Commerce, and Texas Women’s University all hold
regular conferences that would be potential sites for exceptional work by our undergraduates.
Also, opportunities for attendance at other important events that are sometimes held at nearby
universities are also abundant (for example, the Computers and Writing Conference recently held
at TTU, the SW/TX Popular Culture conference in Albuquerque, and the upcoming SIGDOC
Conference that will be hosted by our own campus). Such events also provide rich opportunities
for partnering with undergraduates on research projects, yet another significant component in an
overall ethos of retention and development.
Finally, returning to community outreach, centers of influence, and the visibility of the program,
efforts need to be made immediately to solicit donors and community program partners that can
support the work of our undergraduates, specifically through scholarships and sponsored
research/study. Even a few small ($200-$500), program-level scholarships help to foster
recruiting activities while strongly supporting retention. As donor participation and community
partnership increases, such scholarships become a driving component of a competitive program.
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This report is meant to provide a basic framework for a workable recruiting plan that can be
effectively implemented to coincide with the university’s new major in RWS. But in order to
provide an even better opportunity for success, this framework requires the creative, rhetorical
expertise of others in the program. This white paper should be seen as the starting point from
which we purposefully develop a thriving program at UTEP. Despite this call for collaboration,
some key components for any effective recruiting plan remain, and these must be continually
o Development and proliferation/dissemination of a unified program identity
o Creative and consistent marketing and branding efforts that are always aligned
with the program identity
o A recognition of the need for active recruiting methods, and the purposeful,
quantifiable implementation of such activity
o Community outreach that begins with our own campus
o A focus on creating a model program that moves students through the major
quickly, and that helps them achieve post-baccalaureate success
- 19 -
Appendix A—Scaffolding for Marketing Success
While I don’t wish to suggest that I have the expertise or background to create a workable
marketing plan for the RWS program, I would like to offer here, by way of scaffolding for the
broader recruiting plan, some cost-effective ideas for marketing the RWS brand and appealing
to undergraduate and soon-to-be undergraduate students.
The first initiative that I have in mind is an on-campus sticker campaign, in the tradition of
viral/guerilla marketing techniques pioneered online and in public spaces. The idea is quite
o The program begins by ordering approximately 100 stickers from a vendor like Sticker
Nation. Total cost for these stickers should be under $50.
o The stickers should be simple: bold white lettering on a glossy black background
o The message should be intriguing, for example:
What is Rhetoric?
Are you Rhetorical?
Kairos: It’s About Time
I Play With Logos
I Write, Therefore I Am
o Each major slogan is accompanied by a tagline that rests right-justified across
the bottom, something like:
To learn more, visit www.utep.edu/rws
RWS itself should also be strategically placed on the sticker
Once we have received the stickers, they should be placed strategically around campus,
pinned to every available bulletin board and usable place that we can (I don’t advocate
actually “sticking” them to things—we don’t want to cause problems). The idea behind the
campaign is that the stickers will act as “memes,” publicly circulating instantiations of our
brand and ethos that are striking, different, and yet familiar to our target audience. They
should be handed out at public events, and possibly even inserted into shopping bags at the
- 20 -
UTEP bookstore (this is already common practice, as most handouts in these bags are
commercial advertisements for things like credit cards, etc.). The main point is that the brand
and the website will be prominently featured, with the entire goal of the campaign being the
transfer of students to our website.
As mentioned repeatedly in this report, marketing efforts like this need to be buttressed by
active recruiting methods. For example, during the first or second day of classes, a 1311 or
1312 instructor might ask their class if they’ve seen the “Are You Rhetorical” stickers around
campus. Such questions serve to help build discussions of disciplinary content while
reinforcing the marketing and branding campaign.
Stickers should also be placed in nearby, off-campus sites, and on bulletin boards at partner
High Schools as well.
A related marketing initiative involves the creation of a Wiki or stable website that is
different from the program website. For example, basic questions about Rhetoric and Writing
Studies might be placed here, and instructors could continually drive students to the site,
asking them to contribute answers to the question from their own situatedness. Linked to this
is the idea of a twice or three times per semester email newsletter that takes advantage of the
Wiki, the program site, and the branding/marketing campaign.
Finally, traditional print resources can be used to further support the viral marketing
campaign. For example, ads in the UTEP student newspaper, Horizons online, and in
alternative weekly papers can mimic the sticker campaign, supporting on-campus advertising
while also reaching (or reinforcing/redirecting) a different demographic and driving further
traffic to the website(s). High School newspapers and yearbooks are another inexpensive
way to use traditional print advertising.
Above all, program faculty and graduate students need to support such methods through
continual and purposeful interpersonal marketing, realizing that they are often in positions to
represent the program and market its benefits to potential undergraduates, community
partners, and donors.
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Appendix B—A Curriculum Story of Recruiting
The following curriculum story envisions the experiences of an undergraduate student during
the first two to three weeks of his second semester at UTEP, already identified as a business
major. In addition to classes in accounting, astronomy, and psychology, he is also enrolled in
I stopped by the Union a couple of days before classes began to buy my books. When I got
home, I noticed that my English textbook had a bookmark inside. Actually it was a sticker
that said “Are You Rhetorical?” It had a link on it, and it also said RWS.
The first day of classes, my English instructor held up one of the stickers and asked us if we’d
seen these on campus. Several of us said that we had, and our instructor began asking us
what we thought it meant to say we’re “rhetorical.” I didn’t really have a good grasp of the
concept, although I’ve heard the term in political debates and on the news. We had a pretty
interesting discussion about what rhetoric is, and my teacher said that we use rhetoric all the
time, especially in business, engineering, and other areas of study.
Later that day, as I was leaving my afternoon class at UGLC, I noticed another one of these
stickers on a bulletin board, except this one said “Kairos: It’s About Time.” I knew it had
something to do with rhetoric because it looked the same as the sticker I received in my
textbook, and it also said RWS.
During the second week of classes we started talking more about rhetoric and writing in my
English class. I’ve always hated English classes, and never really understood why someone
would want to read books or poems about British people. But Mrs. Donovan, my instructor,
was teaching us a little bit about language theory in class today, about how we use language
to persuade, but also about how we use it to create and pass on knowledge. She also talked
about how writing is epistemological, an idea I still don’t get but that I’m intrigued by.
After class on Thursday, Mrs. Donovan asked to see me about my first online posting. I
thought I did something wrong, but she mentioned that I was a strong writer, and asked what
my major was. When I told her “business,” she asked if I had ever considered a double
major, and if I knew that majoring in rhetoric and writing in addition to business would
improve my ability to get a good job after graduation. I said I didn’t know anything about
rhetoric until a week or so ago. She said she had a fact sheet about rhetoric and writing
studies and about job information at her office, and I agreed to stop by her office before class
on Tuesday. I felt really good about my writing for her class.
Before class on Tuesday I stopped by Mrs. Donovan’s office at Vowell Hall. It was kind of
hard to find, but when I entered the lobby I saw that “RWS” symbol that I had seen on the
stickers and on Mrs. Donovan’s syllabus and WebCT page. Mrs. Donovan gave me an RWS
Fact Sheet, and suggested that I go to the website for more information about majoring in
RWS along with my business major. She introduced me to Brian McNely, another instructor,
and he showed me some stuff about how important writing is to business and industry. Mrs.
Donovan said that she was going to send an email about me to the director of RWS,
recommending me as a candidate for the program. She also said she’d set up a meeting for
me to meet with the director. I’m really excited about discussing RWS some more…