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November 28, 2022

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UWRF rebrands to emphasize recruitment

September 21, 2022

Students at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls were met with a new UW-River Falls logo this semester, part of what the university calls its “revitalized brand.” Maria Gallo, Chancellor of UW-River Falls, announced the rebrand on Aug. 29th.

“Our institution needed a modern brand that exemplifies the ambition and boldness of our students and employees,” Gallo said. The rebrand also included an updated website, which replaced the old UW-River Falls website in the second week of September.

New UWRF wordmark
A new wordmark is part of the rebranding of UW-River Falls.

The new logo is made up of a falcon head and stylized “RF” letters, and includes a blue star. According to a promotional website for the rebrand, this star represents aspiration, while the falcon head represents determination, and the “RF” letters represent River Falls.

Beth Schommer, Chief of Staff at UW-River Falls, said that it had been 15 years since the university had updated its brand or conducted a brand study. According to Schommer, the reason for the rebrand was to appeal to prospective students, stand out from other universities, and reflect UWRF values.

Schommer also described the rebrand’s development process. “[In the] fall of 2021, right after Chancellor Gallo arrived, we started thinking, we really need to do some work in this area,” Schommer said. The university worked with KW2, a marketing and web design agency located in Madison, WI. “We really began the brand research in the spring,” Schommer said.

The research was directed by a core team representing UW-River Falls’ communication, marketing, and admissions office. According to Schommer, Chancellor Gallo was directly involved in this core team. A brand advisory team was also created, made up of “pertinent academic departments, representatives of every college, [and] representatives of different groups like Student Involvement [and] shared governance.”

“We tried to get everyone to have a seat at the table in terms of the actual review of the brand assets as they were being developed,” Schommer said. “It’s been a very participatory process.” In the spring of 2022, the university sent out surveys to UWRF students, alumni, faculty, and employees to gather input, with over one thousand individuals taking part. 

Following this research phase, work on the rebrand continued. “[KW2 has] been working on developing all the brand elements over the past several months, getting us to the launch here that we had at the end of August,” Schommer said.

According to Schommer, “the brand research, development of the brand tools and messages, testing, brand campaign development and brand launch done by KW2 cost $232,000.”

As for the updated website, Schommer said, “Our [old] website was sorely lacking in really giving [students] the user experience that we wanted them to have.” Schommer referred to the website as the “prospective student website,” and said that the update included around 200 pages dedicated to recruitment, with features like the virtual campus tour.

Schommer also commented on student reactions to the rebrand. “The overwhelming response has been positive,” she said. “People are really excited to see us introduce something new.” Schommer went on to mention a Facebook post published on UW-River Falls’ official Facebook page on Aug, 30th. The post was an announcement of the new logo and the symbolism behind its various elements.

The most liked comment on this post, by Heather York, who, according to her Facebook page, graduated from UW-River Falls in 1993, said, “It’s still a…complete waste of time and energy on [the university’s] part and it doesn't represent either the college or the community.”

“There was some pretty energetic dialogue that went on…in response to that Facebook post,” Schommer said. “Everyone's going to have their opinions and they have the right to those opinions.…I think we really hit the nail on the head with it, and there's going to be some outliers, and that's fine. We expect that to happen.”

The new logo has already been implemented across campus and online, though it may take a year or more to appear on merchandise.

While some elements of UW-River Falls’ brand, such as the university seal and the Falcon Athletics logo, will remain the same, the new brand is here to stay, and will likely be the face of UW-River Falls for years to come.

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