St. Olaf College Brand Messaging Guide

This brand messaging guide is designed to assist St. Olaf faculty and staff in reaching key constituencies with a cohesive and compelling presentation of who we are and what differentiates us from other colleges and universities. These guidelines delineate the institutional characteristics, words, and phrases that should be used in describing the college. Clear and consistent messaging allows the college to speak with one voice and strengthens the St. Olaf brand among prospective students and their parents, alumni and donors, and other interested audiences.

Positioning Statement

One of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges, St. Olaf College offers a distinctive education grounded in academic rigor, residential learning, global engagement, and a vibrant Lutheran faith tradition.

Many excellent colleges provide one, two, or even three elements of the St. Olaf experience. What makes St. Olaf unique is the combination of so many distinguishing features working together at the highest level: an intense academic program that sharpens minds and an emphasis on a global perspective that broadens them; the vitality of a residential community that engages thoughtful people across the full range of human experiences; and a faith tradition that encourages reflection and honors different perspectives.

By cultivating the habits of mind and heart that enable graduates to lead lives of financial independence, professional accomplishment, personal fulfillment, and community engagement, St. Olaf College provides an uncommon educational experience that fully prepares students to make a meaningful difference in a changing world.

The Short Version (The “elevator speech”)

St. Olaf College offers a distinctive education grounded in academic rigor, residential learning, global engagement, and a vibrant Lutheran faith tradition. St. Olaf provides an uncommon educational experience that fully prepares students to make a meaningful difference in a changing world.

Core Characteristics (The “Four Pillars”)

  • Academically Rigorous
  • Intensely Residential
  • Globally Engaged
  • Guided by Our Lutheran Tradition

Academically Rigorous

St. Olaf College exemplifies academic excellence in all fields and values rigor in intellectual inquiry, encouraging its students to think broadly and deeply.

Students are challenged by the deepest questions and taught to seek answers through discussion, discovery, and introspection.

Courses are demanding and faculty have high expectations, but they are committed to helping students succeed. The college excels at providing hands-on opportunities for undergraduate research and scholarly collaboration.

A St. Olaf education results in the formation of an active mind and inquisitive character, a process that produces critical thinkers, creative achievers, proactive doers, and adaptive lifelong learners.

Proof Points:

  • St. Olaf College consistently ranks among the top baccalaureate institutions in the United States in the number of graduates who go on to earn doctoral degrees.
  • St. Olaf alumni overwhelmingly report that their education has prepared them well for further graduate or professional study.
  • The medical school acceptance rate for St. Olaf student applicants is more than one-third higher than the national average.
  • St. Olaf is a top producer of Fulbright international fellows and other prestigious award recipients such as Goldwater undergraduate science scholars.

Intensely Residential

St. Olaf is a residential college by design and is fully committed to a learning experience that invites students to live and learn in community with others.

St. Olaf students encounter a genuine and inclusive campus community where values are important, individual responsibility and integrity are embraced, and relationships still matter.

Living and learning in community engenders a deeper understanding and appreciation of differing viewpoints and helps foster respect for others and their opinions. These are skills that prepare students for life as it is lived. Proof Points:

  • Ninety-five percent of St. Olaf students live on campus or in college-owned houses.
  • A single, common dining hall brings students together for meals to promote community.
  • Residence halls have been reconfigured to provide more informal gathering space for students.
  • The popularity among students of intramural and club sports, along with the presence of more than 250 student organizations, provide numerous opportunities for community engagement and personal development.

Globally Engaged

St. Olaf believes that living and studying abroad is fundamental to understanding other cultures and perspectives and to becoming an educated citizen in our contemporary world.

For nearly a half century, St. Olaf College has been a leader in sending students overseas to study. Today more than two-thirds of St. Olaf students study abroad in one or more countries before they graduate.

Students and faculty are encouraged to travel abroad to experience other cultures and gain a deeper appreciation of the diversity of the human condition.

St. Olaf students are required to demonstrate basic proficiency in a language other than their own because language is fundamental to understanding different cultures.

The presence on campus of students from more than 75 countries around the globe enriches the St. Olaf experience and informs learning. Proof Points:

  • St. Olaf has a proud legacy of global involvement and is recognized as a pioneer and leader among liberal arts colleges in study abroad. The college has consistently placed first among baccalaureate colleges and universities in the total number of students studying abroad.
  • St. Olaf College offers nearly 110 study-abroad programs in 49 countries, a range of opportunities broader and more extensive than nearly any other liberal arts college in the United States.
  • International students are increasingly well-represented within the student body, with the number on campus more than doubling in the last five years.

Guided by Our Lutheran Tradition

Guided by a vibrant Lutheran faith tradition, a St. Olaf education embraces the interplay of faith and learning, encouraging free inquiry and thoughtful conversations about religion and belief.

St. Olaf believes that faith forms us. It influences our culture and shapes our individual worldviews.

We strengthen our understanding of religion and faith through study; we strengthen our personal beliefs through reflection; and we strengthen our community by respecting the faith traditions of others.

Students are invited to ask probing questions and engage in respectful dialogue, gaining insight from those of other faiths as they examine their own beliefs and values.

St. Olaf College draws upon its Lutheran heritage to help students shape their understanding of vocation and discern their life’s work.

Proof Points:

  • St. Olaf College’s enduring faith tradition is manifested in daily chapel services during the academic year, Sunday worship services, and an active ELCA student congregation supported by a college pastor and associate pastor.
  • Well over one-third of all St. Olaf students report a Lutheran affiliation, the largest single religious orientation among the college’s increasingly diverse student body.
  • To achieve a basic understanding of Christian theology and develop a foundation for examining differing belief systems, all students are required to take core courses in biblical and theological studies and ethics and moral reasoning.