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Northwest College In Powell Considering a Rebrand

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Northwest College in Powell is considering a name change.

The small college is doing well, by all accounts. Interim President Lisa Watson said enrollment and graduation rates are as strong as – or stronger than – other similar institutions, despite the pandemic.

“Northwest College actually didn’t do as bad as a lot of the other colleges, even within our state,” she said. “Where last year, people were down 8% off of normals, we were down 2%, something like that.”

But the college is currently considering rebranding itself, an effort to increase the institution’s appeal. A campus and community discussion about rebranding and possibly renaming the college is scheduled for Wednesday. 

“The conversation is more about whether we should rebrand or rename, and a combination thereof,” said Watson. “When you’re looking at revisiting how college operates, or how you know what you’re doing with what your offerings are, then rebranding happens a lot of times.” But Watson explained that renaming is a bigger conversation. 

“I think that’s the conversation that people feel more emotional about. The name Yellowstone College came up, it’s been talked about in the past. I’m not set on a name, and I’m not set on doing it either, which is part of the reason why we’re doing the panel on Wednesday.”

The college is currently in Phase Three of the Rebranding conversation. Phase One, which began in July of last year, involved gathering ideas and hearing feedback about ways the College can reposition itself; Phase Two involved testing core options and brainstorming ways to better position the College.

“Phase three is about building our roadmap,” said Watson. “And remember, the roadmap is just a map designed to kind of set you on a course and get you going in a direction.”

Watson says the rebranding conversation is fundamentally about how the college can differentiate itself from other similar institutions.

“The idea behind it, is this change in a good way? It’s change that says, How do we refresh? How do we reinvigorate? How do we, you know, bring the college to the community in a way that says, yes, they serve Me? Yes, I want to go here. Yes, Northwest college, or whatever college dot dot dot – hey, that appeals to me, and that’s where I want to be.”

The public discussion will take place Wednesday, October 13, at 6 p.m. and will be available live via Zoom at https://nwc.edu/events

“We really want people to come to the meeting, and just learn about why people rebrand, why people rename, both in business and in higher education,” said Watson.

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Northwest College Considering Changing Name to Yellowstone College

in News/Education

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By Kevin Killough, Powell Tribune

As Northwest College reviewed proposed budget cuts in the coming fiscal year, Trustee John Housel argued the college should include funding that would allow for renaming NWC as Yellowstone College. 

“I don’t think we should stall. I don’t think we should wait for something else to happen,” Housel said. “I don’t think we should wait for another review of some nature to find out how we’re going to do this.” 

He pointed to the public input sessions the college has held over the past year and where a predominant message from the community was the name change was desirable.

And he noted that, at her final NWC board meeting in November, outgoing President Stefani Hicswa encouraged the trustees to move forward with a new name.

At Housel’s request, an ad-hoc committee has been formed to begin examining how to execute the plan.

The committee, he said, could begin researching answers to a number of questions that remain about the rebranding plan. This would include any statutory issues limiting the college’s authority to do so.

Housel also wants the committee to discuss the plan with the Northwest College Foundation to be sure it was on board with the new name. 

“They may not be,” he warned. 

Housel also wants to solicit input from the Wyoming Community College Commission to make sure the college doesn’t run afoul of any criteria the WCCC has governing college name changes and see if the commission has any other objections to the plan. 

“If we knew that early on, that would be helpful,” Housel said. 

The new committee will also do some preliminary analysis on costs of changing signage, designing new logos, and redesigning the website. 

Housel also proposed the committee set a timeline by which the name change could be achieved. 

Dusty Spomer, president of the board of trustees, said a lot of the work would fall to the committee, as the college staff’s time resources were tapped out.

NWC Interim President Lisa Watson said the rebranding is part of the planned institutional transformation. Specifically, it’s part of phase 2, as laid out by the college’s consultants, CampusWorks, which is helping with the overall transformation. 

Watson pointed out that the college, which was previously Northwest Community College, has changed its name before, indicating it’s possible. 

“If we’re ever going to start the work, we need to start the work,” she agreed. 

Housel volunteered to serve on the committee. At the same meeting, Trustee Mark Wurzel was appointed to take over as president of the board, leaving Spomer time to serve alongside Housel on the committee.

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Northwest College Adds Video Gaming (eSports) as Competitive Sport

in News/Education

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

When thinking of competitive college activities, sports usually comes to mind.

But Northwest College is looking to increase its enrollment by offering a new sanctioned competitive program — video gaming.

According to a report by Goldman Sachs, Esports — or competitive video gaming — is more popular now than major league baseball. Entire stadiums are being constructed to lure fans and gamers to the booming billion-dollar industry.

Brian Erickson,  athletic director for Northwest College, said the college is banking on the popularity of Esports to boost enrollment numbers. 

“What do college kids do these days? They’re not throwing a frisbee, they’re not throwing the football anymore,” he said. “What are they doing on their time off? Well, they’re in their room and they’re gaming. So let’s get them out of their rooms, let’s get them in this facility gaming with each other, to give them a different interaction.”

Erickson said he was able to apply for a grant through Northwest’s college foundation to begin funding the activity, which he said won’t be very expensive compared to other sports.

“It will really only cost about $10,000 a year to run the whole thing,” he said, “and we’re already out there trying to get sponsors.”

He said Northwest is the first Wyoming school to offer e-sports as a sanctioned activity.

Once established, NWC players will be competing in Powell against teams from all over the country. For example, if they play against a team from Florida, NWC competitors would be playing from Powell and Florida players would be playing from their campus.

Erickson said a group formed for college e-gaming, the National Association of Collegiate Esports, has 178 teams as members, with competitors playing 15 different games.

When NWC’s program is up and running, its students will play regional and national teams. 

“League of Legends, Rocket League, Fortnite are the ones we’ll probably start with,” Erickson said.

Erickson said the program is just getting off the ground, starting with a “club” for the existing players this spring. The college will then recruit for a full Esports program for the fall semester. 

“We’ve got to do a really good job of marketing, that Northwest College has an Esports team,” he said. 

Erickson explained that the NACE has recruiting websites where potential students can log in and upload their profiles. He said there could be international students interested in attending Northwest College to game.

Before they begin, though, there are logistics to be tackled.

“We’re moving forward with the facility right now,” he said, spreading his arms inside a large empty room in one of the classroom buildings on the NWC campus. “We’ve got to make sure we’ve got the Internet connection that can run these games, then get the computers.”

Erickson said the school is looking to recruit 30 to 40 new students going into next year. If the recruiting drive is successful, he said it would halt the downward trend in enrollment the college has seen over the last few years. 

He added NWC hopes to have scholarship money available for potential students in the next three or four years. 

“One of our missions for the college is to retain and recruit,” he said. “We’re trying to keep our students here, and get our enrollment numbers back up.”

Northwest tries new tactics to attract students

in News/Education

Northwest College in Powell, facing declining enrollment for the last several years, has launched several efforts to build up the number of students attending the two-year school.

As of the fall of 2018, the number of full-time students attending the college in Powell stood at 807, compared to 948 in the fall of 2017.

College President Stefani Hicswa attributed the decline to the improving economy.

“Community college enrollment is directly tied to unemployment,” Hicswa said. “As people go to work, they don’t go to college. This is the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years, so they’re not choosing to attend college at this point.”

The college also faces competition from for-profit schools that can spend more on marketing, Hicswa said.

Northwest is changing some of its marketing approaches, such as relying more on social media, to reach students with its message, said Carey Miller, the college’s new director of Communication and Marketing.

Williams said efforts are focusing to spread the word about the college’s location, affordability, the quality of its programs and the college experience it offers.

“Those four things, Northwest College excels at,” she said.

In addition, the college is sending recruiters to meet with potential students, said Dee Havig, Northwest’s interim vice president for Student Services.

“Marketing tells us that social media is what students are wanting, but we’re also hearing they like that face-to-face and making that connection to someone with the school,” he said.

Hicswa said the college is also looking at new degree programs, partnerships with regional colleges and universities and the construction of a new student center to attract more students.

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