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President Gee encourages students to support new campaign

(Exclusive to The Daily Athenaeum, February 5, 2015.)

When you hear the word ‘brand,’ you might think of Apple. Or Google. Or the Nike swoosh. You may even think of one of the most recognizable logos in college sports – the spectacular “Flying WV.” But a brand is more than a logo, tagline or marketing campaign.

It is who we are and what we represent. It is a promise by which we live.

This month, West Virginia University is launching a new branding initiative and creative campaign, “Mountaineers Go First.”

Before returning to this University in 2014, I already knew what awaited me. West Virginia University had long been established as West Virginia’s flagship, land-grant research institution, nestled within a mountainous wonderland of warm, friendly faces. But never mistake that kindness for weakness. Mountaineers wield a rugged determination – whether inside the labs and classrooms for academic discovery or on the playing fields for sports supremacy.

As a community, our brand represents the total experience of who we are, the essence of our institution and the personality we convey.

As individuals, we also bear our own distinctive, personal brands. When you think of me, you think of bowties, argyle socks, selfies, fancy eyeglasses and quirkiness. That is my personal brand. It has followed me for much of my life.

This is why brands are important. It is about staying true to yourself and your own unique characteristics.

With this new branding effort, we want to capitalize on our strengths and build upon that identity. With many wonderful discoveries and activities taking place at West Virginia University, it is time to be a little less humble and a lot more confident – without being arrogant. It is time to show the world what it means to be a Mountaineer.

Therefore, to bring our brand to life, we have launched the creative campaign, “Mountaineers Go First.”

You may not know this, but part of our identity is shaped by firsts. Several decades ago, before eco-friendly was cool, we built the Personal Rapid Transit system, or PRT. It is the first and only electric-powered transportation system of its kind in the world.

In 1990, alumnus Rouzbeh Yassini-Fard helped develop the first high-speed communications modems we use today. In 1984, WVU center Georgeann Wells was the first female basketball player to dunk in an NCAA game.

And more recently, West Virginia University was the first to be an academic partner with the FBI on a Biometrics Center for Excellence.

Our history is filled with firsts – and we have a world of firsts yet to uncover.

As we redefine our institution in the marketplace, think about your own personal brand. Then think about the significance you have on the brand of West Virginia University.

Each of us is an example of what it means to be a Mountaineer. We personify our University’s brand every day. Be bold. Be confident. Be innovative. And let us never forget: When everyone else goes back, Mountaineers Go First.

Let’s go.