With the rebranding of USF’s image — including a new academic logo — also comes a number of core beliefs and slogans that work together to tell the story of the university.
Though the official slogan is “United, we Shape the Future,” one of the core beliefs is “ambition over tradition,” which according to the university’s Chief Marketing Officer Joe Hice, is about keeping an eye to the future to continue the story of the university.
However, this same belief has also brought mixed reactions from some of USF’s alumni.
Gene Haines is an alumnus who graduated in 1997 with a degree in criminology and a former member of the USF Alumni Association Board of Directors. Haines said he thinks the “ambition over tradition” tagline is disrespectful toward those who have helped work to make USF into what it is in the past.
“I don’t understand why any university would want to discard tradition,” Haines said. “I always thought that’s what a university was built on.”
Hice said he recognizes some of the concerns with the “ambition over tradition” belief, but USF is a university who still has more of a story to tell as it progresses into the future.
“With alumni, I understand their concern,” Hice said. “Some of them have taken it to mean that we don’t value the traditions that we have created over the 60 some-odd years that we have been in existence, but that could not be further from the truth. Again, it just gets back to that overall story and that ideal that we are looking to the future. We are future focused, where some other universities rely more on their past.”
Hice said that “ambition over tradition” is one of four “beliefs” that the university has, not the official slogan.
The other beliefs include, “the collective power,” which Hice says is in reference to all three campuses — Tampa, St. Pete and Sarasota-Manatee — consolidating into a single accredited university, “the boundless community,” which is meant to represent the university’s efforts toward diversity and inclusion and finally, “uncharted terrain,” which includes taking chances and trying new things from a research perspective.
Linda Herman, an alumna from 1988 with a degree in education, said that when she thinks of tradition, she thinks of positivity and family, which is not something to be put on the back burner.
“I’m not thrilled with this belief at all,” Herman said. “The word tradition is stated like it is a negative thing. There is nothing negative about the word tradition … Try another word, USF.”
However, for Victoria Soler, an alumna who got degrees in accounting and finance in 2016, she said her journey to those very degrees have been everything but “traditional,” and it was her ambition that got her to the point in her career that she has achieved.
“Sometimes one’s ambition doesn’t necessarily take you down a path of tradition,” Soler said. “Even though my journey hasn’t been traditional, and it never will be, I would not have done it any other way.”
The belief of “ambition over tradition” is something that can be found on billboards throughout the Tampa Bay area. Hice said, however, the term will not be used in advertising.
“(Ambition over tradition) is not going to be used in advertising, as we go forward because we are working on a more long-term campaign theme, we still have not figured that out yet,” Hice said.
Hice said the addition of the new beliefs and the academic logo have generated more digital foot traffic than the university is accustomed to.
“Typically over a two-month period, we will do in the neighborhood of 200 million impressions — that is visitors to the website, people who follow us on social media and blog posts — that 200 million has gotten close to one billion impressions in the 50 days since we have launched the new logo,” Hice said.
However, for alumnus Alex Cobbs, who got his degree in religious studies in 2012, the “ambition over tradition” belief is not what he takes issue with. Instead, it is the new academic logo that he has a problem with.
“I’m not quite as concerned about the slogan, slogans are typically pretty short lived anyway,” Cobbs said. “My greater concern is the logo. I think USF administration has put themselves at risk of damaging what minimal brand recognition we have.”
Many on social media share Cobbs’ sentiments, which prompted Hice and his team to release a “mean tweets” video last week.
“We expected that we would create a lot of discussion, but I do not think that any of us expected it would anything like this at all,” Hice said.
For Stephanie Lehman, an alumna with a degree in finance and management from 2013, the new academic logo and “ambition over tradition” belief does not represent the university well.
“The new belief immediately made me mad,” Lehman said. “Tradition is a huge part of universities. At USF, alumni and previous faculty started traditions of school chants, striving for excellence … and most importantly, making all Bulls feel like family. It’s a great thing to be ambitious, but to forget where you come from is a shame.”
Lehman also pitched changing the belief to “a tradition of ambition,” instead.
Hice said that the purpose of the belief is to continue USF’s story and always strive toward the betterment of the university.
“‘Ambition over tradition’ is designed to talk about our focus on the future,” Hice said. “That, for the University of South Florida, our legacy is built on the future, not the past. That is not to say that we don’t care about our alumni, the 63 years that we have had to date, but we are looking to the future and building on the past.”