The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith unveiled its new look Wednesday (April 21) with a ceremonial flag-raising ceremony to launch its new brand. The new band comes after almost a year of research, discovery, analysis, and design, said Rachel Rodemann Putman, UAFS associate director for strategic communications.
The new logo features a lion with a forward gaze and full mane standing atop a stone foundation with a river of negative space, reminiscent of the Arkansas River that is the university’s home, a news release said. Below the lion is a new alignment of the university name in a bold serif font, the University of Arkansas above, and Fort Smith in large print below, “reflecting both the boldness of the institution’s place in the University of Arkansas System and the rich history and unique importance of the city of Fort Smith in its legacy.” The new branding effort cost $165,865.
The new “regal and majestic” lion is more focused and mature, said UAFS Chancellor Dr. Terisa Riley, noting that the new brand has been met favorably by board of visitor members, students, faculty and staff in preliminary views.
“We are mature. We are almost 100 years old, but only 20 years (a university), so we are still really young,” Riley said. “(The new lion) shows that we are growing up. We’ve matured a lot in who we are and what we offer.”
Numa the Lion, UAFS’ mascot, will stay on as a spirit symbol in all his fierceness, Riley said, noting that keeping Numa in that role has been met with a great deal of positive feedback. The lion on the foundation overlooking the river is symbolic of the university offering what the region needs but going beyond to offer what students outside of the region need and to bring them to UAFS, she said.
Riley told Talk Business & Politics during her first week as the university’s chancellor in July 2019 that new branding and telling the university’s story were among her top priorities. She said it is critical to develop a branding and marketing program that includes strategies to boost enrollment. She said the approach will not try to be all things to all people “but focus on what we can be good at.”
“I am so thrilled to raise a flag in honor of the incredible work our marketing and communications team has done over the past year,” Riley said. “As we look at our new, sophisticated lion, we are reminded of the journey of every Lion. We look forward toward the future, standing tall and proud. We are rooted here in the river valley, and our foundation is firm. We know our worth, and we respect the value of every lion in our pride.”
In August 2020, the university partnered with Vision Point Marketing, a professional branding and marketing agency with a singular focus and dedication to the higher education sphere, to help the university refine its message, voice, and brand.
“We began this process with the goal of identifying what UAFS stands for,” said Chris Kelly, director of marketing and communications “and that work begins with listening. We went directly to our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and our community, to those who make this university such a special place and we asked them to share their stories. We asked about their experiences, the faculty who changed their lives, the staff who walked beside them every step of the way, and the institution that brought jobs, growth, and innovation to their town. And then we set to work processing what we heard.”
Researchers gathered stories, thoughts and opinions from more than 1,200 people, including 300 current students, 500 UAFS alumni from throughout the institution’s history, more than 150 faculty and staff and more than 200 regional residents, as well as members from the university’s advisory boards and prospective high school students. From this research, the university and the agency created “cohesive messages based on the truest lived experiences and grandest dreams of its community,” a news release said.
“Through this process, the UAFS brand came to life,” Kelly said. “Every brand pillar is based upon the collective experiences and vision of our campus and community members. Not only are these pillars rooted in research, but they also came directly from our Lions. This rebrand will serve as the foundation of what UAFS stands for now and into the future. It is not a campaign that will change in a year or two. It’s something permanent upon which we will continue to build well into the future.”
Riley said the new brand and the university’s new marketing campaign will help the university tell its story across the state and nation.
“I say it every time I’m out in our community or talking to prospective families – I truly don’t know why anyone would go to school anywhere but here, and I can’t wait to empower everyone on our campus to thoughtfully, strategically, express the things that make the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith so special,” she said.