By Ryan Spencer
Section: NewsDecember 2, 2016
To present the most accurate and marketable image of Brandeis, the university should decide whether or not Brandeis is a Jewish institution, said Mark Neustadt, a marketing analyst with a specialized focus on the needs of colleges, universities and schools.
Brandeis should present itself not as a Jewish institution, but as a university based on the broad Jewish values of “a reverence for learning and scholarship, cultivation of critical thinking, and using one’s gifts and accomplishments for the betterment of society,” suggested Neustadt.
He spent the past several months at Brandeis conducting research through focus groups of prospective students, undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty. He also conducted two surveys: one of prospective students and one of Brandeis alumni.
“Focus group results show a favorable response to his proposed identification of Brandeis as a university based on Jewish values,” Neustadt said.
He presented his findings and suggestions to the university on Tuesday, Nov. 29 in a meeting open to the Brandeis community. More than 50 students and faculty attended the meeting.
He quoted one anonymous prospective student from the focus groups as saying that, though they were originally “turned off by the Jewish component” of the school, the summary of Brandeis as a school based on Jewish values “reassure[d] me that they don’t just want a Jewish student.”
Brandeis ranked low in marketability, according to a statistical test by Neustadt. The Net Promoter Score is calculated by asking a surveyed population to rate, on a scale of 0 to 10, how likely they would be to recommend a product, or, in this case, a university. Those who give a rating of nine or 10 are considered “promoters,” while those giving a rating of zero to six are considered “detractors.” The percent of detractors is then subtracted from the percent of promoters, giving the Net Promoter Score. Those surveyed who give a seven or eight are considered passive and do not add or subtract to the score.
With a +6 Net Promoter Score, Brandeis had the lowest Net Promoter Score that Neustadt has seen of any university. The average university Net Promoter Score is +54, according to Neustadt.
“This is a serious issue for the institution,” Neustadt told the audience. Colleges count on alumni for fundraising as well as advocating for the school.
“The research suggests that this low Net Promoter Score has nothing to do with… the academic enterprise at Brandeis,” said Neustadt, “alumni from all generations consistently give Brandeis very high marks for the quality of their academics.”
President Ron Liebowitz said Brandeis “does not do enough to promote the excellence of the institution.” Brandeis should boast about its accomplishments more, he suggested.
The social experience at Brandeis was not highly rated by alumni in the survey, according to Neustadt.
Although he recognized Brandeis’ focus on social justice, he denied that the university could define itself by the concept of social justice. Social justice is not a broad enough platform for Brandeis to market itself on, he said, using the physics department as just one example of an important part of Brandeis which social justice does not cover.
Housing and facilities and the size of the student body at Brandeis were points of of concern to prospective Brandeis students, according to Neustadt’s findings. These as well as the size of the student body were of medium to high importance for prospective Brandeis students who rated Brandeis in their top three choices, but prospective students were only content at a medium level with these two qualities of Brandeis, according to a scatterplot graph presented by Neustadt.
“Housing and facilities truly is one of Brandeis’ real challenges,” said Neustadt without providing suggestions as to how to fix the problem.
Neustadt equated the prospective students’ low contentment with Brandeis’ size to Brandeis’ tendency to promote itself as, “the combination of a small liberal arts college with faculty research.” Instead, Brandeis should describe itself as “a medium-sized, undergraduate-centered, research university,” Neustadt said.
This description is more comparable to schools such as Boston University, Cornell University, Tufts University and Yale University, which prospective students most commonly cited in their top three choices in Neustadt’s survey of prospective students.