Seminary of the Southwest
Challenge: Save a Seminary From Closing Its Doors
The Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest had a very long name and dwindling enrollment. As compared to the other 11 accredited Episcopal seminaries, ETSS was much younger, had experienced more turmoil and had less leadership stability. Like most religious institutions, it lacked a a defined brand strategy and differentiated messaging architecture. The seminary’s situation was exacerbated by the political poles of the church, the political nature of a non-profit, a recent regime change on its board of directors and a VERY tight budget.
We guided an elected brand taskforce group through our BrandSmart process to discover the seminary’s true brand position, brand essence and competitive differentiation. Together, we defined its Brand Platform to help guide the reinvention of the entire seminary, including renaming the institution, new brand identity, brand collateral, a new Web site and, most importantly, a new culture centered on delivering a defined experience. The Brand Platform is also informing seminary operations such as curriculum, worship services, housing and financial aid policies.
The new name, Seminary of the Southwest, gave the school a more natural and collegial sound. The new brand identity and collateral launched to rave reviews. The entire face of the seminary is being rebuilt to support the new Brand Platform. Southwest has reaffirmed itself as a top-tier Episcopal seminary in the eyes of the church and reinvented itself as a contemporary educational institution in the eyes of its prospective students. The campus is undergoing physical and emotional renovations. New leadership is in place with palpable enthusiasm.
As of Fall 2011, student enrollment at the seminary is up 40% over the previous year, nearing the institution’s capacity. Southwest is the ONLY Episcopal seminary in the nations to experience such an increase in student enrollment.