Opinion: Rebranding of the University of Juba

By John A. Akec

University of Juba newly constructed gate (File/Supplied/Nyamilepedia)

July 13, 2020 (Nyamilepedia) – Eagles inspire humans in many ways. They soar up in the sky and defy the gravity to steal a broad view of the earth. We can only look and wish we were eagles to enjoy such a feat. What’s more, as popular story goes, when an eagle hits the age of 40 years, they go up the mountains and spent months shedding their old feathers, and putting on new once, before coming down invigorated to live for another 30 years. Biologists dismiss this story as a myth. But nevertheless, it’s a story that has inspired many a CEO for millennia.

The University of Juba has already passed its 40th year since the teaching began in October 1977. And it is absolutely important to ask ourselves the hardest questions: how are we being perceived by our stakeholders and the general public? In other words, how does our brand name stands today, and how may we maintain our brand name long into the future?

Foremost, we need to remind ourselves that a good brand name is not what you think you are, but what your public believes you really are, be that good or bad. And since our inception, the University of Juba has stood for “Excellence, and Relevance”, and we still do stand for those important values. Yet in changing world and context, we had to rebrand and find a new battle cry some six years ago. Namely, “Inventing the future, transforming society.”

Gone are the days when our prime mission was to train civil servants for the then autonomous government of Southern Sudan. Now, our mission in the context of an independent South Sudan has changed and grown to encompass, among other things, a full commitment to “national economic empowerment and social transformation through provision of quality education, pursuit of relevant research, promotion of innovation, facilitation of technology transfer, revival of national cultural heritage, protection of the environment, and service to community.”

This broad mission statement, however, does not mean we want to become all things to all people, but to stand to be counted when tackling pertinent national socioeconomic challenges through research and innovation; as well as providing high quality education to our students, and being of service to the communities in which we are embedded. It should not be a mere lips service, but a lived reality.

The above goals need to be reflected in our brand. Our brand image and our actions should be in complete harmony.  In the age of social media which has empowered and placed the public in the centre of power, if an institution of higher learning like us does not give them a good story  to to tell, they will give us their own story reflexive of how how they perceive our brand. And that calls for universities to have activity and consistent web presence.

As pertaining to maintaining our image, we have embarked on improving the looks and feel of our campus’ landscape, our entrance gates, our lecture halls, our libraries, our laboratories, and our student spaces. However, we did not stop at the improvement of the physical environment but have contracted KAVIBE, a Kampala-based branding company, to critique the design of our website and propose improvements, review and revamp our logo, and design for us the material for marketing and advocacy. These include University prospectus, flyers, and pull ups.

Yet more importantly, we as University of Juba need to stand for something. This will position us high in the minds of our prospective students and their future employers relative to other institutions of tertiary education, nationally and regionally. We can do this by identifying areas of strength and comparative advantage and strive to excel in them.

The question is: do we want to be known for our high quality research and teaching in engineering, in medicine, in law, in economics, in business, in education, in agriculture, in music and arts, in urban planning, in mathematics, in sciences, in computing? In one or two or all of above? And when we say we are “inventing the future and transforming society”, does our actions match our words?

I do believe that the answer lies in the action of each dean, head department, and lay academic. In short, it depends on all of us making our own contributions and pulling our institutional boat into the shores we want.

The author is the vice-chancellor of the University of Juba.


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