A term that is often thrown around in Higher Education is hidden gem. It is not unusual for people to describe Lincoln Memorial University in those terms. Whether it’s the Harrogate main campus’ out-of-the way location or vast academic offerings that qualifies LMU as such, one can assume that you don’t expect to find an academic learning community with so many resources and opportunities in the isolated hills of Appalachia. Or maybe, it is just that there is a lot of work to be done on the public relations and marketing front or the University. Is LMU considered a hidden gem because we’re not a national draw or household name?
As one of a handful of people directly tasked with maintaining the LMU brand, promoting all the good works going on and marketing the academic offerings at LMU, I would tend to agree that there is always work to be done on the PR front. However, I would argue that it isn’t from a lack of effort or activity.
In the early days after the University’s founding in 1897, LMU drew mostly local students. As it developed into a work University, the student body had a more regional feel. It’s a trend that remains today, as many students come from within a 75-mile radius of campus. There are two exceptions to that rule. The first is LMU-DeBusk College of Osteopathic medicine, which attracts osteopathic medical students from California to New York and everywhere in between. The Physician Assistant program also has a national base in its recruitment.
LMU is on the path to recruiting highly competitive and qualified students. In addition to establishing highly sought after professional studies advanced degree options, the University is increasing the academic rigor of its undergraduate offerings. The goal is to recruit students that will enter LMU as undergrads and leave as doctors, lawyers or physician assistants. To accomplish this, LMU will not be able to fill its rolls with students primarily from its service area. There just aren’t enough college bound students to fill all the spots.
And that means wading in to the deeper national and regional waters. Rather than diving right into the ocean with one or two national advertising pieces, LMU has to gradually push our borders and reach new audiences. This is going to take more resources, both financial and human, and time. Rome was not built in a day and hidden gems aren’t uncovered in a day.
LMU has made many strides in the last seven years to let its light shine brightly for all to see. Hopefully in the next seven years that light will reach new shores.