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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Branding the UA better

    If you are a serious student here at the UA, you’ve probably been a victim of Arizona’s less-than-stellar image to the outside world. You know the scenario: During your summer job or internship or study abroad experience, an Andy Bernard (from “”The Office””)-type proudly trumpets his Cornell or Yale education. When the school you call home is revealed, the Yalie inevitably asks, “”Oh, Arizona. Big party school, huh?”” What is your response?

    Yep, that’s right. We have a coterie of students well versed in the discipline of debauchery. Some can calculate the exact amount of jungle juice and Jell-O shots required to render one satisfactorily sloshed, given requisite variables such as body weight and time interval. Others exhibit an uncanny talent in positioning and marketing uniquely themed bashes with the managerial prowess of a Wharton M.B.A. grad. These astute revelers have made Arizona the veritable Princeton of party schools – or so goes the image.

    I hate to beat a

    I can’t count how many times I’ve had to give a well deserved tongue-lashing to some Easterner for confusing the UA with ‘That huge party school in Phoenix that is good at football.

    dead horse (more aptly, a dead school), but I partially blame our rivals just up the I-10. Our image is linked to our shared name with Arizona State more than the actual exploits of our undergrads. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to give a well deserved tongue-lashing to some Easterner for confusing the UA with “”that huge party school in Phoenix that is good at football.”” Over the past few decades, our Princeton Review party ranking has declined, while our academic marks have soared. On the other hand, ASU assumes a place on the list of the nation’s “”Top Ten Party Schools,”” while struggling to shake its Tier III distinction. Name change, anyone?

    Nevertheless, the fact remains that we are often viewed as just another unwieldy party school, bereft of any meaningful academic activity. This is a frustrating typecast for many studious and heavily involved Wildcats – that mass of students who spend as much time at buildings like Slonaker, Gould-Simpson or the Main Library as they do at their own homes.

    This unfortunate reputation precedes all UA graduates, and not just when it comes to our innocuous meetings with Ivy League peers. Guest lecturers and recruiters frequent the Ivies, while turning a cold shoulder to the Old Pueblo. But, the most egregious offense comes when a UA grad goes tǦte-Çÿ-tǦte with an Ivy League grad for a job. Even stellar candidates from Arizona may have to qualify their undergraduate experiences, while the Yalies are assumed to be qualified, based on the brand name of their diploma. What shameless, unfair nepotism.

    But can you blame them? We respond to generalized “”brand”” signals every time we buy clothes. Acting on common assumptions is much more efficient than sifting through every piece of information and every alternative when you are choosing a new shirt – or a new employee. And for an employer, that certain chic je ne sais quoi confidence of a Harvard product is a lot more attractive than the uncertainty of Arizona’s nascent brand. This paradigm will not see any change in the foreseeable future.

    Fortunately, the future is not hopeless and bleak for us UA kids. There are a few things you can do in your daily life to help market Arizona’s brand image in a more positive and truly representative light.

    First, continue being a great student. Second, refuse to accept the generalized, reduced image of certain schools based on their name. As you’ve probably seen, Arizona has more academically-minded students than one would expect – no, you are not alone! And it’s true that those Ivy Leaguers aren’t the superhuman students you thought they were. Indeed, an acquaintance from Yale once confided in me that she saw stagnant contentment in fellow classmates driven by the sense of entitlement and certainty of success that one acquires after getting into such a school. Here at the UA and other state schools with growing Honors programs, innovative and dedicated students are doing more and more to advance themselves – knowing that the brand on their diploma won’t automatically entitle them to a cushy job. Studies prove that future success depends on the gumption of the student, not the school they attend. So stop wearing your Harvard shirt and complaining that you don’t go there. Keep an open mind, put in some extra work and you’ll realize you go to a great school.

    The next time you face the imminent Arizona question, don’t justify the myth and confirm your audience’s preconceived notions. Every school, even Harvard, has its professional partiers. Give a more positive, nuanced view of the UA student. I’ve never met as many talented, dedicated people as I have here at the UA, so it shouldn’t be hard. Only when we adopt a self-confident certainty in our school and our education will the public image of the UA change – and in turn, hopefully, the opinion of those nasty interviewers.

    Eric Reichenbacher is a senior majoring in economics and international studies. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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