Cal State San Bernardino’s planning and implementation of its brand identity “We Define the Future” by the university’s Office of Strategic Communication has been named the recipient of the prestigious Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Circle of Excellence Gold Award for Branding Programs – Institution Wide.

The program, which was implemented at CSUSB in 2016, was one of 22 entries received for the competition.

The judges, in their report, wrote that Cal State San Bernardino’s “submission was impressive with the amount of detail and information. It was obvious that a lot of time and energy was put forth on the planning side, as this came across on their award review process.”

The judges also noted that the project “had a large group of stakeholders involved, across multiple units and groups at the institution. Their budget was very low, in comparison to similar projects. Strong return of investment, combined with an impressive plan and outcomes.”

CASE is a membership association serving educational institutions and the advancement professionals who work on their behalf in alumni relations, communications, development, marketing and allied areas. CASE helps its members build stronger relationships with their alumni and donors, raise funds for campus projects, produce recruitment materials, market their institutions to prospective students, diversify the profession, and foster public support of education.

CSUSB President Tomás D. Morales praised the department in developing and overseeing the brand’s implementation.

“This is a well-deserved award for our Office of Strategic Communication, recognizing their hard work, commitment and collaborative efforts to promote and elevate the university’s identity,” Morales said. “We Define the Future is a statement that’s unique, bold and ambitious, and exemplifies Cal State San Bernardino. It also works perfectly with our campus in Palm Desert, which also needed to elevate its identity.”

Robert Tenczar, associate vice president of the Office of Strategic Communication and co-chair of the university’s Identity Task Force, praised his staff for their commitment to and enthusiasm for the project.

“Launching and promoting this initiative to students, faculty and staff as well as the communities we serve and beyond has been a great challenge, but one that the OSC team has risen to meet,” Tenczar said. “We Define the Future truly defines the university and will do so for years to come. I’m extremely proud of the OSC team.”

Tenczar stressed the brand’s success was a collaborative effort that sought the opinions of more than 2,000 people.

“It was very important to hear as many voices and gather as many opinions as we could — both negative and positive,” Tenczar said.

The “We Define the Future” initiative originated in 2014 as the university began creating its 2015-2020 Strategic Plan. One of the key five initiatives identified in the plan, it was charged with creating a campus identity to help strengthen CSUSB’s position and value throughout the region. The goal was to create a well-defined and supported university identity as measured by students, faculty, staff, alumni and community perceptions by June 2020.

A designated brand task force, working collaboratively with Brand IQ, a Los Angeles-based firm, conducted several months of research compiling the thoughts and opinions of CSUSB students, faculty and staff to validate key institutional strengths and weaknesses, uncover common misperceptions, and identify potential areas of brand opportunity.

After collecting all the data, the task force analyzed the similarities and differences among CSUSB’s audiences regarding their perceptions and expectations of the university and motivations to engage with it. From there, the task force proposed three distinctive concepts and tested them with key stakeholder groups.

All the research supported an overwhelmingly clear choice: “We Define the Future.” This inspirational branding is a natural platform for telling stories of students, faculty members, alumni, donors, campuses and communities working together to achieve great things and influence not only thinking in their disciplines, but also the applications of their ideas around the community, the nation and the world.

A major part of the We Define the Future identity is the five brand promises that support it.

  • The Bold Vision of CSUSB as a leader in higher education
  • Coyote Pride in all that the university does, recognizing the ability of selfless collaboration and unyielding determination to achieve its greatest aspirations.
  • Affordable Excellence as CSUSB delivers quality instruction and outstanding learning experiences while allowing students to graduate with among the lowest debt.
  • Life and Career Ready from the value of a CSUSB education that is measured in the success of its students into lifelong learning and career opportunities.
  • Human Impact through award-winning community engagement, innovative centers and institutes, and dynamic program offerings, CSUSB finds creative uses of technology and benefits from its diverse community and robust study abroad offerings.

CSUSB marketing professor Victoria Seitz, who also served as co-chair of the Identity Task Force, said the value of a great brand identity has helped the university take all its strengths and put them into a single capsule that communicates what CSUSB stands for and what distinguishes it from other competing universities.

“This has been an amazing effort and couldn’t have happened without the broad support of the university’s students, faculty and staff,” Seitz said. “Because we know what we stand for, we can also better communicate our strengths, which helps people who come to the university to have realistic expectations and for those expectations to be met.”

Tenczar said the brand has helped unify and promote the university.

“We Define the Future has resonated Cal State San Bernardino’s identity, allowing us to speak with one voice so people know our reputation and its place in our community as an educational leader.”