First ever UMW commercial hits air, sparks student concern
By ESTER SALGUERO
The University of Mary Washington released its first ever commercial on Friday, Oct. 2, the largest part of a series of advertisements the university has undertaken to rebrand and attract new students to the university.
The 31-second commercial featured eight students: Mikey Barns, a communications and digital studies major, Corey Taylor, a digital studies major, Zach Kerns, a business major, Catherine O’Meara, a theatre major, Gwen Levy, a theatre major, Meghan Cardwell, a psychology major and Laura Gilchrist, a historic preservation major, all of whom received emails in the spring of 2015 to apply to be a model for the commercial.
After the application process, the students were briefly interviewed, and the piece was shot during the summer of 2015. The filming process took place in the Digital Auditorium of the Hurley Convergence Center.
The commercial, titled “I Am UMW” on the University of Mary Washington’s YouTube channel, featured different fields, including historic preservation, athletics, business and psychology. The commercial is scheduled to air on ABC Family, Comedy Central, Nick, TruTV, AMC, FX, NBC, MTV and VH1. The commercial will also be featured on ESPN’s Monday Night Football and during Entertainment Tonight on NBC.
UMW has also created posters featuring the eight models at public venues across the state, including locations such as Tysons Corner in Northern Virginia.
The commercial and posters are a part of UMW’s experiment with promotional media in attempt to attract various groups of potential applicants to the university.
The ad portrays an accurate representation of the school’s demographic. The current freshmen class is 35 percent men and 65 percent women, according to the university’s website. UMW may be attracting more students targeting the men in the young-adult population as an attempt to create a balance between the ratio of women to men on campus.
The university has also created attractions within campus as well as extending outside campus through advertising. The recently finished University Center opened to the student body at the beginning of this semester and took nearly two years to construct. The budget for the build was approximately $56 million and has been a way for UMW to rebrand itself and give students a new place to experience.
The commercial, along with the rebranding, has brought about both positive and negative attention from members of the student body.
Abigail Barnett, a sophomore biology major, took a different stance in expressing her opinions of the commercial. For her, she did not see UMW when she saw the video. She described it as a list of majors that did not portray the university’s most valued characteristics.
“It should show hard work [taking place] in the classroom while also showing our tight knit community,” Barnett said.
However, UMW’s acceptance rate has not increased as dramatically as some may have thought. According to Princeton Review, UMW has an acceptance rate of 77 percent which is nearest to George Mason University’s acceptance rate situated at 67 percent.
Sarah Roche, a sophomore biology major, believes the high acceptance rate speculation detracts current and prospective students from seeing the UMW community in a positive light. “It saddens me how people reacted in such a way because it insinuates that somehow increasing the acceptance rate is an indication that the student body is less talented, dedicated, intelligent and assumes this sense of superiority,” Roche said.
Larger universities also have a greater amount of overall applicants. Therefore, their acceptance rates are lower than a university like UMW, which has received less attention than George Mason partly due to its size.
In addition to having smaller pools of applicants to accept, UMW has also just recently amassed greater acknowledgment, particularly in publications such as U.S. News and World Report, according to The Fredericksburg Economic Development website.
This commercial, although it is only 30 seconds, displays some of UMW’s majors that cannot be found at every university, including Historic Preservation, a well-known UMW major. There was only one science major which was mentioned in the video causing some disappointment from students like Roche.
“I worry that people who see the commercial will notice the lack of representation for the sciences like biology, chemistry, and physics,” Roche said.
As conversation continues to upsurge from the aftermath of the commercial, UMW continues to advertise and captivate interests from the prospective student population in a format that they had not achieved before.
In addition, UMW expects to see a positive change in the community by searching for ways to maintain a consistent and connected body of students to create a greater sense of solidarity from the multiple forms of promotional media.