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5 Minutes with … Bruce Chong

Bruce Chong

Bruce Chong is vice president for Marketing and Communications at Stetson University.

Tell us about your job at Stetson University.

I oversee Marketing and Communications, which to me is the best job at Stetson University. It’s a great opportunity to be involved in the essence of what makes Stetson such an excellent institution. I get the chance to work with all the departments – Enrollment Management, Admissions, Development, Athletics, Financial, the President’s Office – and see the entire scope of the university and be involved in everything.

Bruce Chong and Joel Jones

Bruce Chong, vice president for Marketing and Communications at Stetson University, discusses marketing materials with Joel Jones, assistant vice president of University Marketing, in Chong’s office.

Our job is to convey the message and build the context because one of the things I’ve always found is it’s not a lack of trying to communicate, it’s sometimes a matter of how you communicate. Let me give you an example. I’ve had an opportunity to work on the Diversity and Inclusive Excellence Task Force. There are 14 members here in DeLand and we have membership, as well, over at the College of Law in Gulfport. As a group, we have been working on ways to realize inclusiveness and promote diversity at Stetson University for two or three years. But I know that some students may not understand that because some of them have only just arrived this past fall. So whenever I have an opportunity to talk about it, I always try to put it in context. ‘We’ve been working on this for a long time. When we first started, these are the things the task force did. Here’s how we got to the point where we ended up doing a campus climate survey. Here is the result. Now that we have the results, what happens next?” People sometimes are like, ‘Oh, that’s way too much.’ But if you don’t provide the context, then you don’t have an opportunity to fully understand the work, the effort, the time, the caring. That’s my philosophy of communications: Everything requires some context, background and history.

I have a staff of 12 really great writers, visual people, graphic artists, photographers and videographers who work on all our channels of communication — Stetson University Magazine, Stetson Today, the website, Admissions brochures, the calendar system and events – to put together the university’s message, visually and with words, so people quickly can understand what Stetson is about. I like to say, “We’re the observers.” We get to see what’s happening and our job is to communicate to the people who didn’t have an opportunity to be there, or communicate where we’re trying to go. We have great stories here and our job is to tell the story of Stetson University.

 

How long have you worked here?  

I started Nov. 4 of last year, so I’ve been here for just over a year. I’m no longer the new kid on the block. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people here and from day one I’ve been really impressed with the people and how they care about the university and how they care about the students, and how much the students really care about the things they’re involved in.

 

What do you like most about your work?

I love being able to continually look at how Stetson is evolving and changing over time. I think somewhere in my office I have three or four brand studies that have been done in the past about, ‘What is the promise that Stetson makes? How does Stetson keep that promise?’

I think that evolves over time, even though our values don’t change. In higher education, we want to be a part of our students’ lives forever. We want students to select Stetson University because they believe in the mission of the university. We want to be able to help them get a foot into their career and their industry, and have them be part of the university moving forward – coming back to participate in events as alumni and eventually giving back by helping young people here, mentoring them and hiring qualified Stetson graduates in their businesses. That’s the Stetson experience that I think everyone wants and that’s the part I love the most about my work, working with creative talent to capture and communicate that, internally and externally.

 

Where would you like to see Stetson in 10 years?

Stetson has a great history and reputation in Florida. Beyond, they have these really standout moments in their history and sometimes I think we lose that because we’re all so busy. But in 10 years I’d like to see us pick up those threads and really embrace what Stetson has been able to do. It was probably one of the first private universities to have a presence on both coasts. It offers a great undergraduate experience, a great legal education in Gulfport. It has two locations in Central Florida – one in Celebration, one in Tampa – that support some of the programs we offer. I think we have an opportunity as an institution to be part of the greater sense of what Central Florida is all about. It’s just a matter of us as an institution and as a community deciding what do we want to be able to do and how do we want to be able to do it in five years or 10 years.

I also think there are program opportunities, based on some of our strongest graduate programs and the reputations they’ve had for years and decades in this area – the Accounting program stands out. The School of Business Administration stands out. There’s an opportunity for cross-program collaborations – the M.B.A./J.D. program is an example of that.

 

As a marketing and communications professional, how do you raise awareness of Stetson University around the country and the world, and help it reach the next level of prominence and excellence in its reputation?

That’s a good question and it’s one of the reasons that I decided Stetson is where I wanted to go because I had the opportunity to work both with external marketing and communications. At most universities, when you go talk to the president or chancellor, the number one thing they’re going to tell you is, ‘We’re the best-kept secret in’ … and then, fill in the blank. Because whatever region they’re in, they’re the best-kept secret because if people just knew about them, it would make a huge difference.

For Stetson, this is probably the first place I’ve ever been — and I’ve worked at other colleges and universities — where that is actually true. It does great things, it plans to do great things and it has done great things. It just hasn’t had the focused effort to build its reputation. So the first thing is you have to make that decision, and I think that decision has been made by President Wendy Libby. The second part of that, and this can often be the hardest part, you have to be able to clearly articulate who you are and what you stand for and why you’re better or different than everybody else.

And what you get at Stetson University is a one-to-one connection that makes all the difference in the world. Our students are much more likely to look to their faculty as – not only an expert — but also as a potential mentor. We believe when you leave here, we want you to be a better person, not just a better-educated person. And that’s the goal we’re trying to set for ourselves.

 

Bio

Hometown: Lived in 14 places growing up because his father was in the U.S. Marines. Bruce considers San Diego his hometown because he lived there the longest.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science/international relations from San Diego State University.

Family: Wife Prudence (who was the first female third-base camerawoman for the Atlanta Braves) and John, their rescued dachshund.

 

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