A Change in Name, and Little Else
In the summer of 1994, ranked among the top 10 of The 100 Best Companies to Work For in America, Federal Express decided it was time to change their name. Let’s take on a new identity, they said. Let’s expand, set new goals, and become stronger, more efficient and more influential than we already are. The new name, FedEx, was unveiled along with a strategically-planned, newly calculated identity including a fleet of 458 airplanes and 45,000 vehicles. The shortened name, FedEx, embodied speed and acuteness, but more importantly, the company behind the name set new goals and developed stronger ambitions. FedEx articulated a vision to its employees and its constituents. They changed their name and brought with it a plan of action, a new set of routines and processes. Federal Express didn’t just change its name; it changed its whole identity.
Over the summer, The New School for General Studies and Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy became The New School for Public Engagement (NSPE). While name changes are often a form of re-branding, this instance falls far short of a new frontier. I’ve been a student at Milano since 2009, and this is our third name with our second president and our second dean (if you’re counting). When they said new, they certainly weren’t lying.
But something is missing at The New School for Public Engagement. I have yet to read, see, or experience what is beyond the name. Our name has changed, but our existence has not. We must ask ourselves: what do we want to accomplish as a school whose name speaks to active participation, projects, community and civic involvement? Workshops, community service, murals and volunteering all come to mind, but I have yet to see an infrastructure or vehicle that would support this type of engagement. The school should have a platform for students to suggest engagement activities, and should even allocate funds for those engagement activities to take place.
When Federal Express changed its name, it changed its existence. They had a plan of action; they facilitated a re-birth. But at NSPE, tangible change is nowhere to be found.Two divisions were combined, but interaction between those divisions remains limited. At present, we are still two separate divisions. Our new name implies that we have a commonality — that NSGS and Milano were combined because of a shared interest in public engagement. But as yet, nothing has been done to emphasize that shared interest and take advantage of it.
I have no problem with our new name. I actually like it, and am excited and eager to live up to all that it implies. The students are ready to help, become engaged and make an actual identity for the institution whose name is in constant fluctuation. Let the collective student body help plan and execute a scope of existence — create focus groups, identify community projects, submit proposals and create opportunities for actual and tangible public engagement. Let’s build an identity based on who we are, what we do, and what we intend to do. If we don’t live up to our name, then it means nothing.