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Case Studies University of Tulsa

Dakota Wesleyan University

Hendrix College


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A small, United Methodist-affiliated university located in Mitchell, South Dakota, DWU in 2007 faced the daunting task of promoting a private college brand in a state with a shrinking population and the strong presence of large, public institutions of higher education.

GDAIS was asked to help reverse a trend of shrinking enrollments and help amplify DWU’s message of student-focused, faith-based education. Identifying the school’s inherent strengths and leadership in nursing, athletic training, and education, GDAIS designed and conducted extensive research and surveyed prospective students throughout DWU’s recruiting territories. This research revealed a positive association between DWU and healthcare education. It also highlighted a desire among prospects for healthcare professions, especially in fitness and allied health. The resulting recommendations led to a wholesale reorganization of the university, including the establishment of three new colleges within the university with the intentionally named College of Healthcare, Fitness, and Sciences, as the flagship college.

To translate the new DWU into recruitment communications, the GDAIS Creative Services team looked even more deeply into the benefits of a DWU education for all students. The resulting positioning for DWU, “LearnStrong,” was based on the school’s extensive use of skills assessment coupled with a new Center for Talent Development (a GDAIS recommendation) that exists solely to help each student match innate talents and strengths with programs of study that are most likely to be the best fit—even if it means designing a new major from scratch. A complete remake of print publications, e-mail and mini-website integration, and direct mail campaigns were developed in support of the LearnStrong positioning.

In just a few years, DWU has been transformed from a school facing tough choices in a sparsely populated region to one that has attracted $10 million in capital campaign funds to improve campus facilities. GDAIS also wrote the campaign documents that helped institutional leaders attract funding.

This past year, working with a new graphic identity and tagline, “Discover Your Strength,” developed by another marketing firm, we expanded and redesigned all of the University’s recruitment marketing materials, and the DWU community, which has fully embraced the brand, has continued to more fully integrate branding efforts University-wide.

Today, one of DWU’s biggest challenges is finding housing for the growing number students eager to attend a school with its purpose and position clearly defined and in line with the region’s educational needs and expectations.

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