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Ohio State Wants Students to Fall in Love with Columbus

Walker Evans Walker Evans Ohio State Wants Students to Fall in Love with ColumbusPhoto still from OSU's "Start the journey here" promo video.
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If you’re a new or future student at The Ohio State University, college officials want you to fall in love not just with your new school, but also with the City of Columbus as a whole. An effort to bridge the gap between “town and gown” began several years ago with the formation of a Student Engagement Steering Committee.

“This group consisted of leadership from the Offices of Student Life and Enrollment Services along with leadership from the Columbus Foundation, the Columbus Partnership, Experience Columbus and GCAC,” explained Pete McGinty, Associate VP of Enrollment Services, Marketing and Strategic Communications at OSU. “There are a number of initiatives stemming from this work.”

Some of those initiatives include a Student Welcome Event launched several years ago, which brings roughly 7,000 incoming freshmen students together off-campus at Nationwide Arena for an official intro to the city. Another program involves turning 300 Resident Advisors at OSU into city ambassadors by giving them a first hand tour of what the city has to offer.

One of the latest projects is a video piece, published several weeks ago online, which gives new and prospective students a visual guide to the city located outside the campus:

“The video is one of several other initiatives underway, all designed to better leverage and promote the city,” said McGinty, who formerly served as the Director of Marketing at Experience Columbus. “Our goal is to recruit the right students, encourage them to experience and build an affinity with the city while they are here, and connect them to career development opportunities so they will want to stay in Columbus after graduating.”

McGinty says that part of the challenge of the process is that most students simply don’t consider the cities where their college choices are based as an important factor when deciding where to pursue higher education.

“They are looking at their college experience as something that occurs almost entirely within the boundaries of the university — plus, it’s not a typical strategy for a university to leverage or market the city in which they’re located,” he explained. “Being located in the Columbus Region gives Ohio State a unique advantage and a competitive distinction because of activities outside of the classroom available and the connections a student can make here. There are very few market/institution combinations that can rival what we’ve got here.”

While Columbus is a very large city compared to most smaller college towns, our base of over 130,000 students from 30 colleges and universities in the region gives Columbus a very high rate of college students per capita. McGinty says that factor is why these types of outreach efforts are critical to the city as a whole and not just to OSU’s benefit.

“This influx of students adds to the city’s diversity, character, youth and overall attractiveness — it’s an important ingredient that helps make Columbus Columbus,” he said. “Those not from Columbus are essentially four-year visitors who are interacting with residents on a daily basis – eating, shopping, playing and experiencing facets of the city every day. The perception they take away from all their interactions will determine the affinity they develop with the city. Will they fall in love with the city? Will they become ambassadors? Will they want to stay here when they graduate?”

For more information, visit www.osu.edu/futurestudents.

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