University Community Engagement and Its Effect on University Brand Image

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community engagement
higher education
brand image
university brand
Advertising and Promotion Management
Business and Corporate Communications
Educational Administration and Supervision
Educational Leadership
Higher Education
Nonprofit Administration and Management
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With rising competition between universities in recent years, higher education institutions face increasing pressure to establish a positive brand image among students, faculty, and other university stakeholders for a competitive advantage. While there have been numerous studies showing how corporations’ brand images have been positively affected by corporate social responsibility initiatives, there are few that establish the effect of university community engagement on university brand image. This study uses a mixed-methods approach involving a secondary data analysis, a case study that includes interviews with administrators on the University of Pennsylvania and the Netter Center’s community engagement endeavors and branding, and a survey of 337 US college freshmen and sophomores to examine (i) the current levels of community engagement across universities, (ii) the use of community engagement in current university branding, and (iii) the role that university community engagement plays in affecting students’ brand images of universities. The combination of Carnegie Classification and Campus Compact designation data identifies trends of current university community engagement levels segmented by ranking. The case study provides an example on how a high engagement research university incorporates values of community engagement explicitly and implicitly in current university branding. Survey results show that university community engagement has a statistically significant effect on branding, and that low engagement creates negative effects while high engagement produces positive effects on university brand image; additionally, results show differences in significance of community engagement with segmentation based on demographics and factor level preferences. Based on the research described, this study identifies what Penn, the Netter Center, and other higher education institutions could do to more successfully connect branding and community engagement.

Dr. Ira Harkavy
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