News Articles

Baptist college execs explore PR, marketing & recruiting

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (BP)–Challenges and opportunities facing Southern Baptist colleges and schools in public relations, marketing, fundraising and student recruiting and retention were the focus of the Association of Southern Baptist Colleges and Schools’ June 1-4 annual meeting in Panama City, Fla.

Hosted by The Baptist College of Florida, the sessions were attended by more than 250 Baptist college, university and school presidents and their chief academic, development, public relations, admissions, financial and student development officers.

Bob Agee, ASBCS executive director, said administrators at the meeting “were well aware of the challenges they face as Baptist institutions in terms of fundraising, student recruiting and retention and public relations long before this conference.” But, he noted, “… it was our primary goal to enlist the finest and brightest speakers among our colleges and schools to offer the attendees sound, creative, results-oriented ideas. Based on my discussions with our presidents and administrators, I believe we achieved such at this annual meeting.”

Agee also commented that the Panama City meeting built an even stronger network among Baptist colleges and schools. “The Association of Southern Baptist Colleges and Schools is quickly becoming a vital voice for the betterment and future of Christian education in our nation. Our association is blessed to have among its membership some of the best minds in Christian education today.”

The annual meeting began with a pre-meeting workshop for public relations officers June 1, with sessions addressing such topics as the role of senior public relations administrators in institutional planning and decision-making, how public relations must change at Baptist colleges and the impact the Internet is having on marketing and communication strategies to better reach Southern Baptist ministerial staffs and laity.

Paul Corts, president of Palm Beach Atlantic College, presented a luncheon address on the president’s role in public relations. Corts also challenged the colleges’ public relations officers to be proactive and consistent in the way they market their Baptist institutions.

A legal affairs briefing for presidents and chief financial officers kicked off the first official day of the annual meeting June 2. Jason Rogers, vice president and university counsel at Belmont University, and Jaime Jordan, attorney with Guenther, Jordan and Price of Nashville, Tenn., led the session.

Workshops addressing current issues in academics, development, public relations, marketing, admissions, student development and financial and legal concerns comprised the bulk of both June 3 and 4.

Robert Benne, professor of religion and director of the Center for Religion and Society at Roanoke College, delivered the three-part 2002 H.I. Hester Lectures titled “Keeping the Faith in Christian Higher Education.”

In his Sunday, Monday and Tuesday addresses, Benne warned Baptist college and university administrators of the growing secularization of America’s Christian higher education institutions. He provided thought-provoking ideas for “maintaining (their institutions’) soul,” including the hiring of Christian faculty and the continuation of church and denominational connectedness, the integration of faith and discipline, community worship, classroom prayer and spiritual counseling and mentoring among faculty and staff for their students.

Additional keynote speakers included Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, who addressed the presidents at their June 3 President’s Breakfast, and Robert Sevier, senior vice president for Stamats Communications, whose speech, “Messages That Matter: New Ideas for Getting the Word Out,” called for Baptist institutions to be more strategic with their communications to prospective students and donors.

Stanley G. Lott, president of Chowan College, Murfreesboro, N.C., and ASBCS board chairman, and R. Alton Lacey, president of Missouri Baptist College and ASBCS vice chairman, served as presiding officers for the annual meeting. ASBCS board officers elected for 2002-03 include Lacey as chairman; Bettye R. Coward, president, Blue Mountain College, Blue Mountain, Miss., vice chair; Thomas A. Kinchen, president, The Baptist College of Florida, Graceville, Fla., recording secretary; and Bob Agee, executive director ASBCS, president and treasurer.

The 2003 annual meeting will be June 2-4 in Branson, Mo.

    About the Author

  • Marc C. Whit