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Delivering American University's news and views since 1925.

| Friday, October 31, 2014



Getting to KNOW/WONK


‘Wonk’ certainly is an interesting — and bold — choice for a University branding campaign. With a few changes and a little time, just maybe it will work.





By now, we’ve all seen the invasion of “wonk” on campus. From “Service wonks” and “Welcome wonks” to Peace and Global wonk T-shirts, wonk has infiltrated campus life — but not without some controversy.

We here at The Eagle applaud AU’s efforts to rebrand itself, but we have ourselves wondering: Is wonk the right fit for AU, or is the concept just too “wonky” to work?

One of the first questions asked is why did AU need to rebrand? While the effort may seem corporate and unnecessary, rebranding is an important effort that we support. Many students can agree that when telling our friends where we were accepted back in those tension-fraught college application days, most had no idea where AU was located, let alone what defined the school. While we run into this issue less frequently as we enter the job arena, AU needs to build its reputation amongst potential applicants if we hope to achieve further growth in the coming years.

The overall question remains, why “wonk?” As Flannery points out in her letter, it is “a distinctly Washington word.” The “know/wonk” campaign intends to promote an image of a university full of students knowledgeable and passionate about their work. However, is “wonk” the best word to convey that image to the world?

Maybe it’s just us. It could be a simple case of us just not liking change — similar to every time we cry foul over some change on Facebook. Maybe we just need some time to get adjusted to our new profile page. But there are some deeper issues with the campaign that need to be addressed by the administration if they wish us to fully accept the era of “wonk.”

Much of the campus outcry comes from the sudden introduction of “wonk” upon our return from summer vacation. Although there was some student involvement in the formation process, there seems to be a general feeling of disconnect to the cause. Many other changes to the University have been heralded far in advance of their debut, so why not try and recruit us to “wonk” earlier on? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to try and use students to promote “wonk” to the incoming freshmen, rather than have us railing against it as they walk in the door?

In addition, the word “wonk” refers primarily to “policy wonks,” a connotation that fits many AU students — but not all. Politics is just one aspect of life at AU — to exclude so many of our unique qualities from our official brand fails to aid the cause. What about the fact that we have the largest international studies undergraduate program in the United States? Or that 59 percent of our students study abroad? Or that the Kogod School of Business was ranked 20th in the nation? There are so many positive attributes that we showcase on our website, and to narrow the scope of our branding fails to paint a complete portrait of what AU really is.

AU has declared this the age of “wonk.” However, only time will tell whether or not “wonk” is the best solution to redefining ourselves. In the meantime, we can only suggest a compromise. Students: give wonk a chance. Yes, it may be a weird word, but maybe it’s the right word for us. To the University: Give us more reasons as to why “wonk” works. Judging success by handing out free shirts is not a valid indicator (we’re poor college students — of course we’ll take a free shirt). Instead, show us how “wonk” can include all the unique attributes of this University. Until time reveals the true success of “wonk,” let’s work together on trying to reach a successful common ground.