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PUBLICATIONSorange triangle  Inside Illinois  orange triangle   Vol. 27, No. 3, Aug. 2, 2007

Campus domain change will solidify campus identity

The UI’s Urbana campus is moving to a better address – on the World Wide Web.

The change is part of an initiative that aims to heighten perceptions of the Illinois brand among key audiences, nationally and internationally, and broaden opportunities for education, research and public engagement.

Over the next several years, the domain name for the Urbana campus – uiuc.edu – will be phased out, and all campus e-mail addresses and Web pages will be transferred to the domain name illinois.edu.

Campus officials say the change is a critical step in the universitywide branding initiative begun in 2005, and the illinois.edu domain name will help standardize the university’s identity as “Illinois” among all its constituencies.

“We are Illinois’ flagship institution, and our name should reflect that,” Chancellor Richard Herman said. “As we work to build our reputation as second to none among public research universities, it is critical that we identify with one name that resonates with key audiences. ‘Illinois’ is recognized as a leader in technology, social sciences, business, agriculture and much more. Having our Web presence reflect that name is increasingly important.”

Provost Linda Katehi concurred: “As more and more of our stakeholders connect with us through e-mail and the Web, it is critical that we speak to them in one voice. ‘Illinois’ will become that voice of excellence across disciplines. This transition will require the help and input of each member of our campus community, and it will benefit each of us.”

The uiuc.edu domain name dates back to the early days of the Internet, when the primary criterion for selecting domain names was brevity, not branding power.

“It’s hard to remember that when the uiuc.edu domain name was established, most people had never heard of e-mail, and Web sites didn’t exist at all,” said Sally Jackson, chief information officer and associate provost. “Today an Internet address makes much more difference in how we present ourselves to the world.”

And with more than 4,278 degree-granting institutions of higher education in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, universities are striving harder than ever to differentiate themselves.

A brand perception survey conducted by the Survey Research Lab in 2006 indicated that key audiences recognized “University of Illinois” and “Illinois” as being the Urbana campus, but the acronym “UIUC” was not a strong brand, especially outside the state of Illinois.

Officials at Illinois have talked extensively with colleagues at Northwestern University, whose branding process included a four-year, multiphase migration from its original domain of nwu.edu to northwestern.edu.

“Few people recognized us as ‘nwu’ outside the immediate area,” said Alan Cubbage, vice president for university relations at Northwestern. “Yes, ‘Northwestern’ takes longer to type, but people recognize it and know instantly which university we are and whose Web site they’re on.”

Michelle Nelson, a professor of advertising and director of graduate studies in the College of Communications at Illinois, was a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 2000-2006, when Wisconsin embarked upon its own branding initiative.

“It’s a good thing,” Nelson said. “I think universities need to realize that. It’s part of attracting private donors and attracting and retaining the best faculty members and students.

“It’s a two-way flow. The prestige of the Illinois brand adds value to our work, but we as faculty members help build that brand every time we publish a paper, teach a class or go out into the community.”

A search is under way for a project manager to plan and coordinate the implementation process, which will entail substantial communication and training efforts, said Robin Kaler, associate chancellor for public affairs. “We realized it would be a Herculean task, but staff members in Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services said it is technologically do-able. The challenge is that it’s going to require a lot of work by many people.”

The project manager’s primary role will be to work with faculty and staff members across campus to determine the most effective and least disruptive transition path.

CITES will handle technical aspects of the initiative for centrally provided e-mail and other services, as well as support for the campus IT community. The recently formed Technical Advisory Group, comprising information technology leaders from across campus, will provide support and recommendations for units’ systems administrators and webmasters to make the necessary technological changes once an implementation plan is developed.

Projected costs for the entire project are not yet available, although the greatest expenses centrally are expected to be expanding the capacity of the e-mail system Spam filters. Other costs will be compiled as the project plan takes shape.

 “The important thing to remember is that the transition will be made over a very long time,” Kaler said. “We will support both the uiuc.edu and illinois.edu domains for many, many years to come to ensure that we continue to connect with key audiences.”

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