Zehner: The Dartmouth Brand
By Nicholas Zehner, Contributing Columnist
Published on Wednesday, May 23, 2012
It’s no longer possible to escape from the reality of a shrinking world. As bonds between the United States and the rest of the world become tighter, so too must the bonds between the rest of the world and Dartmouth. College President Jim Yong Kim’s appointment to the presidency of the World Bank has triggered a wave of interest in Dartmouth throughout the world. The College must now utilize the opportunity generated by this interest to enhance the value of the Dartmouth brand internationally.
It’s no longer as satisfying to graduate from Dartmouth, giving you a degree that only holds significance in the United States. As an increasing number of Dartmouth graduates begin to work in global markets and live in areas of the world far removed from the United States, the power of a globally recognized degree has taken on newfound importance. Currently, Dartmouth lags behind research universities such as Harvard and Yale Universities in terms of international name recognition, which gives graduates of those institutions an advantage in the international job market. When I was a high school student applying to colleges from London, the primary reason I was briefly enticed by Harvard was that a Harvard degree holds more value than a Dartmouth degree in the United Kingdom, purely because of the well-cultivated Harvard brand internationally.
Dartmouth’s deficit in international recognition is clearly not a reflection of a deficit in quality. It merely reflects the well-directed efforts that our rival institutions like Harvard have taken to develop their name globally. By contrast, Dartmouth isn’t applying itself to the international world as intensely as it needs to. The same qualities that convinced us to apply to Dartmouth must be publicized beyond the borders of the United States.
Creating an international brand need not come at the cost of sacrificing our unique identity as an undergraduate-focused institution. There are a number of approaches the administration can take that would promote Dartmouth worldwide while still preserving the undergraduate-based emphasis that lies at the heart of the College.
First, we must attract more applications from students outside of the United States. At my high school in England, we had an admissions officer from Harvard come to speak every year, but never once during my five years there did a Dartmouth representative visit. This lack of an informative presence internationally makes it hard for students outside of the United States to fully comprehend what it is that makes Dartmouth so special. There is a simple solution to this problem, which is simply for the Admissions Office to provide more funding for overseas visits. Although it might be difficult to achieve in the current budget climate, we can replace admissions officers with dedicated alumni and attain a similar effect.
Furthermore, we should focus on raising our profile through specific initiatives that would allow Dartmouth to differentiate itself globally. The partnership between Dartmouth and the Chinese government over health care delivery in China is the best possible illustration of such initiative (“College, Chinese Health Ministry pair for reform,” April 10). As Dartmouth pushes itself toward the forefront of health care, more and more people engaged in the issue will come to view Dartmouth as the leading institution we know it to be. Dartmouth spends nearly $200 million annually on research and has three of the best graduate schools in the country. Publicizing these facts doesn’t threaten our undergraduate focus.
The College should also encourage professors to submit their work internationally. There’s no reason why the opinions and research of Dartmouth professors shouldn’t grace the pages of Le Monde or The Times of London in addition to The New York Times. Similarly, the Dartmouth brand would benefit greatly from professors and senior administration officials traveling outside the United States on publicized visits. This weekend, Provost Carol Folt will be in London, a visit that will benefit Dartmouth to a greater degree beyond simply the money it raises.
Dartmouth’s unique identity as the isolated “College on the Hill” need not mean that we must close ourselves off from the rest of the world. Dartmouth undoubtedly offers one of the greatest college experiences achievable across the globe. It’s time to tell the world.