NMU slogan dispute

MARQUETTE – After roughly 20 years, it looks like Northern Michigan University’s slogan “Northern. Naturally.” is about to retire.

And though current and former students seem OK with that idea, the proposed new slogan of “Fearless Minds” has ruffled more than a few feathers, on and off campus.

While speaking with a Student Leader Fellowship Program class, Interim President David Haynes said “Fearless Minds” was a frontrunner in the search for a new slogan.

The announcement offered the class a glimpse into the work being conducted by downstate marketing firm Genesis, which has been working with university on a new marketing campaign it was looking to roll out soon, according to NMU Communications Director Cindy Paavola.

Devin Manges, a student in that class, disliked the possibility of “Fearless Minds” so much she started an online petition on www.change.org that has garnered more than 580 signatures from students and alumni.

“Our minds are probably not considerably more fearless than others,” the petition reads. “It truly is our ties to the Marquette and U.P. culture and nature that set us apart from the rest, and the brand should reflect this.”

Manges said she believes the proposed slogan lacked the personal flavor of “Northern. Naturally.”

“One thing that NMU really has going for it, that really sets it apart from other universities, is our connection to the Marquette culture and the environment that we’re surrounded by,” Manges said. “I think if we change that slogan, not necessarily saying that we have sto keep ‘Northern. Naturally.’ but if we change it to not really reflect the environment that we’re in, I think it’s going to be a loss of identity for NMU and I don’t think that would be a very good thing.”

Paavola said no official decision has yet been made on changing the slogan, though a change is likely coming soon.

Paavola said the university stayed with “Northern. Naturally.” for so many years because it did what it was intended to do – attract undergraduate students who may be nervous stepping out into the world for the first time.

“We always felt we had a strong tagline that resonated with at least a certain percentage of the student population,” Paavola said. ‘Northern. Naturally.’ certainly has its strengths, but it has some obvious downfalls too.”

Paavola said the current slogan doesn’t highlight some of NMU’s greatest academic strengths, such as its nursing department and clinical lab science department. The slogan also does little for graduate students who are looking for good quality academic programs at a university more than the environment.

Paavola said paired with the other advertising materials used in a campaign, students may find they like “Fearless Minds.”

“With ‘Fearless Minds,’ they’ve not seen how it would be used, with photos, with studies, within videos, so all of that takes some time to develop,” Paavola said. “It will go through kind of a process. There may be some students who like it more than they think.”

To see the petition, visit www.change.org/petitions/president-haynes-reject-the-brand-change-to-fearless-minds.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.