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October 1, 2013

#WHYENGINEERING T-shirtAcross the United States, engineering and manufacturing companies are struggling to find engineers to steer the country out of a recession.

It is estimated that by 2018, the nation will have a shortfall of more than 250,000 engineers. At the same time, 16 of the top 20 growing occupations will require science, technology, engineering and math expertise by 2015.

NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology (CEET) has officially joined the battle to keep the United States competitive and graduate more engineers.

CEET has made it its mission to battle the STEM crisis, and help change the future by making a difference at the ground level. Through the development of a university-wide marketing campaign titled “#WHYENGINEERING,” engineering and technology students will not only feel more connected to the college but understand that graduating with a STEM degree positions them for great success.

“#WHYENGINEERING uses hashtags to create an aggregate of statements, comments, pictures, videos and other media to demonstrate what engineering looks and feels like to current students,” said Amanda Carrier, CEET’s marketing specialist.

“Ultimately, we are creating the perfect showcase for our student and faculty work using basic social media principles. Next, our potential students will use the same hashtags and be directly connected to our current students.”

The team behind the campaign is comprised of three interns under Carrier’s supervision. Intern Alyssa Laessig is majoring in visual communication while fellow interns MJ Meisenheimer and Matthew Frierdich are pursuing degrees in communication.

Through their collaboration, the team produced a marketing campaign strategically designed to accomplish several things. These include establishing a sense of community in the engineering and technology buildings, increasing retention and building pipelines and expanding the brand and exposure of the college and its programs to a national level.


The timing is ripe for such exposure: In the past two weeks, the college was not only ranked 45th in the nation, but also secured a $2.4 million grant to study 3-D printing.

Some of the work designed to build a community within CEET rolled out in early August. The campaign started with the introduction of  two “Welcome to the College of Awesomeness and Changing the World” banners found at both entrances, and large vertical banners leading to an online pledge. When classes began, the impact of the campaign was immediately visible.

“It’s important to be able to get the exposure for the campaign right when the students come in,” Frierdich said. “It lets them know that they are walking into something special.”

“Seeing the work in action has been amazing. The Engineering Building used to be a kind of a quiet and studious building, but now you walk into the engineering building it’s absolutely buzzing,” Laessig added.

“You see groups of students in black #WHYENGINEERING shirts talking about why they’re proud to be part of the college in front of a giant ‘College of Awesomeness and Changing the World’ banner. Students are pledging their dedication to STEM, and telling us why they think it’s so important that they succeed. It’s simply awesomeness.”

Amanda Carrier

Amanda Carrier

The #WHYIWILL aspect of the campaign is based upon the idea that the engineering and technology programs are rigorous and challenging, and students need a constant reminder of “why they will” strive to succeed when classes get difficult.

Stage One of the campaign is designed for retention purposes, to keep the students who are in engineering and technology programs connected, active, engaged, and motivated. Students also are issued copies of the “Engineering Life Survival Guide” to lead them through their program and remind them of the pay-off down the road.

“These students must understand that by becoming CEET students, they position themselves as the solution to a very real problem – the STEM crisis,” Carrier said. “The journey is difficult; it won’t be easy. It will, however, be worth it.”

Carrier also alludes to studies conducted by Forbes, U.S News and World Report and others that verify that engineering degrees are among the highest for salary and the most sought after in the United States.

The second phase of the campaign rolls out in the next few weeks.

Plans call for the implementation of strategies to build pipelines to those high school students with interest in STEM fields who might not know the best way to continue their passion or even know universities that offer such programs. The team of interns plans to visit high schools with banners, media kits, view books, table displays and social media.

“A simple hashtag can help connect someone from California to what we are doing here and can help discover our projects,” Meisenheimer said. “Not only are we getting exposure for this campaign, but we are building the STEM pipeline for students, which leads to motivation and is one of the biggest goals of our campaign.”

Twitter’s blue bird logoThe last phase of the campaign revolves around the idea of exposing current and future students to alumni who have made their way through college and graduation and have success stories to play into the #WHYIDID.

The #WHYIDID defines itself as a testimonial to all the people struggling with the challenges of hard work and school. It helps them know that there is hope, and it is said directly from previous success stories. Some of this phase involves bringing prominent alumni back to NIU to show students where an NIU education can take them.

“You (CEET) are really hitting on something that touches the students, even those that do not attend NIU,” said Jeff Camplin, an NIU alum and president of Camplin Environmental Services, Inc.

Much of the campaign is being measured through interaction with the student body. This can be attendance at events, T-shirts, utilization of the hashtags branded by the department and metrics analysis. Metrics help show which show platforms are being interacted with most, such as the new CEET blog, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Instagram.

CEET recently hosted a pig roast branded with the #WHYENGINEERING campaign as part of a “Welcome Days Picnic” and instituted their pledge cards to get interaction through iPads and show appreciation for the students in the CEET as well as future students.

The college also plans for large exposure and interaction at the Homecoming game, featuring many of the projects students have completed on display. All students are welcome to stop by and investigate what goes on in the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology.