Redesigning New Student Programming with Wildcat Welcome 2020 @ Northwestern

From June 2019 to December 2020, I served as the Director of Engagement & Marketing for the department responsible for creating New Student programming.

Traditionally, Wildcat Welcome was a 10-day physical onboarding program replete with tours, learning and dialogue spaces, and events designed to expose new students to the campus.

In March 2020, however, our plans for in-person programming were drastically altered in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a member of a ten-person team, we set to work completely restructuring both the marketing leading up to the events and the programming itself to prepare for an all-digital paradigm.

With so much uncertainty surrounding the circumstances students would be entering months-later, we converted a three-month advertising timeline to a month-long daily content calendar. “30 Days to Northwestern” was born.

A purple and white graphic that reads "30 Days to Northwestern".

This process required throwing out the entire playbook for how Northwestern would market itself to its new students. Primarily, this meant de-emphasizing content revolving around in-person activities in favor of a student-driven narrative. We worked to showcase peer advisers from all over the globe and tapped into the massive network of current students to support our content efforts.

Before the Arch was my child in this regard. A narrative podcast centering rarely-heard narratives in higher education, each episode focused on an identity that experienced marginalization on-campus. The goal of the venture was to connect new students with those identities to their peers, regardless of physical proximity to campus.

The other campaigns in rotation with Before the Arch
No Place Like NU, School Pride, U Rah Rah, and Parent&Family Orientation – highlighted specific features of the current-student experience. Content was spread dynamically across multiple platforms. This included Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and webpage spreads.

This 7-point, 30-day interactive marketing plan successfully onboarded 2,000 new students to Northwestern University by adapting previous communication plans to the current realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this role I even generated the first-ever Northwestern University Instagram AR filter of a campus monument: the Weber Arch.

The “U! Rah! Rah!” series was a solo effort to create the first-ever traditions-oriented video content at Northwestern. Previously, campus traditions would be discussed and handed down in an informal, in-person setting. Now, we needed a way to get all new students on the same page as to where campus values and activities come from.