TTU's BusinessMedia Center helps Southern University of New Orleans after Katrina

Think of devastation and the first image that may come to mind is a phoenix rising from the ashes, but for Southern University of New Orleans, it’s a pelican rising from the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina.

That image is part of the university’s new “SUNO Rising!” theme created by Tennessee Tech University’s BusinessMedia Center, a unit of the College of Business that provides regional businesses, industries and organizations with state-of-the-art multimedia tools and training.

After the hurricane devastated the campus of the first historically black university in New Orleans — now being housed in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency — its administrators decided to implement and aggressively market an online degree program to help increase its enrollment.

They ultimately approached TTU’s BusinessMedia Center to assist with that mission, said Director Kevin Liska, because the BMC has been active in marketing the Regents Online Degree Program, which offers fields of study online through the Tennessee Board of Regents and is the fastest growing online degree program in the nation.

“We redesigned SUNO’s web site, using some innovative techniques and emerging technologies to communicate that it’s a real place, with real people, and still offers a viable option for getting an education,” Liska said.

One such feature is a searchable database of video testimonials — complete with transcripts in text — from faculty, staff and students. A search for ‘housing,’ for instance, results in a video message from SUNO’s director of residential life, with the full text of that message following below the video.

That’s just one aspect of the marketing plan TTU’s BusinessMedia Center helped the New Orleans campus implement.

Other approaches included the production of numerous external marketing materials including brochures, informational CD-ROMs, posters, billboards, Internet advertisements and direct mailings to SUNO alumni, New Orleans clergy and others. A new online course, “Preserving the Historical Heritage of SUNO: Pre- and Post-Katrina,” was also created to give alumni a firsthand experience of online learning.

Carlos Hernandez, director of e-learning at SUNO, says those efforts by TTU’s BusinessMedia Center are “helping save the institution.”

Liska said that level of optimism is typical of SUNO’s faculty, staff, administrators and even students.

“One of SUNO’s unique fields of study is a master’s program in museum studies, and administrators say that by offering it online, it will benefit more museums across the country now than it would have otherwise,” he said.

The partnership between the TTU center and SUNO has definitely turned adversity into opportunity, he continued.

“The success of this project not only involved a great number of disciplines working together, but it also involved two distinct universities being able to work together,” Liska said. “Because we’ve been able to do this, the lives of every SUNO student — whether on campus or online — will be changed forever.”

Plans are now underway for SUNO to continue the marketing process started by TTU’s BusinessMedia Center by implementing its own business media center on its campus — and because imitation is the greatest form of flattery, Liska says he takes that as another sign of a job well done.

To view SUNO’s new web site, log on to www.suno.edu. For more information about TTU’s BusinessMedia Center, call 931/372-6333.

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