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Minnehaha Falls

The "Wish You Were Here" Web site has rotating photos of Twin Cities attractions. Pictured here is Minnehaha Falls, which inspired Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The Song of Hiawatha.

Wishing they were here

University of Minnesota creates faculty recruiting Web site and brochures

By Pauline Oo

March 27, 2007

The University of Minnesota is in the market for the very best faculty in the world. So is every other university and college in the United States. Therein lies the challenge.

Last month, the increasingly competitive nature of faculty recruitment and recommendations from a task force on faculty culture spurred the University to create a Web site and brochure touting the benefits of living in the Twin Cities. The "Wish You Were Here"-themed brochure, along with a letter explaining its uses, recently arrived on the desks of college deans, department heads, and center directors, ready to be sent out to faculty prospects.

"The [new Wish You Were Here] brochures [and the Web site] are going to help, whether we do a targeted search or a national search," says Darlyne Bailey, dean of the College of Education and Human Development and one of the U's most recent high-profile hires. She came to the U from Columbia University, drawn by the opportunity to forge a new future for her college. "I am also thrilled with the cultural icings on the cake--the Walker, the Guthrie, some of the same orchestral groups and dance troupes that came to New York are coming here. And I get all this water around me."

"The primary goal of the brochure [and Web site] is to grab the interest of potential faculty who may consider Minnesota to be no more than fly-over territory," says Assistant Vice President Sharon Reich Paulsen. "Once we spark their curiosity with the brochure, we hope they'll visit the accompanying Web site, where they'll find a wealth of information designed to persuade even the most winter-reluctant visitor that Minnesota deserves a look."

"I am also thrilled with the cultural icings on the cake--the Walker, the Guthrie, some of the same orchestral groups and dance troupes that came to New York are coming here. And I get all this water around me," says Darlyne Bailey, dean of the College of Education and Human Development and one of the U's most recent high-profile hires.

Those who do visit the colorful Web site will be greeted by a voiceover from U alum Garrison Keillor "wishing they were here" while photos of the Twin Cities rotate on the screen.

Web site stats

>>In two months, the new "Wish You Were Here" Web site has recorded more than 1,600 unique visitors just from word-of-mouth publicity and some promotional e-mails.

>>Total visits number more than 3,500, so there's also strong evidence of return viewers.

>>U visitors are already in the minority (37 percent); 8 percent of the visits are international; and the remaining 55 percent have originated from other campus networks, including Notre Dame, NYU, Texas, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio State, UC-San Diego, Stanford, Marquette, Georgia, Utah, Texas A&M, Oberlin, Wisconsin, Florida, Pepperdine, Bradley, Washington, MIT, Princeton, Brown, and Caltech.

The Web site, which has had just over 1,600 unique visitors since its official launch on Feb. 9 (see sidebar), features information about places to go and things to do, the family-friendly Twin Cities community, the depth of arts and culture in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, and, in a bow to perhaps the University's biggest recruiting challenge, highlights about Minnesota's "four seasons of fun."

There also are video links throughout the Web site that introduce visitors to University of Minnesota faculty who explain why they were drawn here and what keeps them here. After all, says Paulsen, "Who better to talk to faculty than faculty themselves?" Visitors who still have unanswered questions or simply want more details can get a personal e-mail response by clicking on the "Ask the Local" button.

With the University poised to hire 1,000 faculty over the next five years, attracting exceptional prospects from across the country and around the world will be critical to the effort to transform the University into one of the one of the top public research university systems in the world.

According to Gary Balas, head of the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics, "We frequently face the challenge of getting prospective faculty recruits to consider Minnesota as a place to live. Now we have a tool, directed specifically to them, that addresses their concerns and questions about life in Minnesota. And, at least in my department, it's already made a difference."

The "Wish You Were Here" Web site is at www.umn.edu/wishyouwerehere.


Further reading:

A transforming U takes shape