Creating opportunity, shaping communities

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is a network of nearly 400 public higher education institutions assembled around a collective mission to transform higher education by putting students and communities at the center of their work. Founded in 1951, AASCU serves as a central voice for these institutions and gives them the strategies, resources, and a network of support to expand access and opportunity for all students.

In a crowded, competitive landscape, AASCU was seeking to optimize their existing assets to overcome organizational challenges and respond to external marketplace needs. Hairpin partnered with AASCU to develop and articulate its commitment to ensuring all institutions of public higher education are student-ready, student-centric, and able to adapt and evolve to meet the unique needs of current and future students.

American Association of State Colleges and Universities
Brand Strategy
Brand Voice + Messaging
Organizational Strategy

Hairpin was instrumental in helping us articulate our organizational commitment to student success in a clear and powerful way, and reimagine how to best serve our members through the products and services we offer member institutions.

Robin Ellis Former Executive Director of Student Success, AASCU

Flipping the script

What began as a project to develop a brand and message platform for the new Center for Student Success evolved into a profound reevaluation of the organization’s very essence and a reconsideration of how best to serve its members. We led a series of intensive, multi-stakeholder, collaborative workshops and convenings, which provoked important operational and identity questions. Then, working closely with the AASCU team, Hairpin recalibrated our work and led a comprehensive process to develop:

  • A deep understanding of the needs of AASCU members and other relevant stakeholders, translated into actionable insights
  • A comprehensive brand strategy designed to articulate why AASCU exists in the world; what it stands for, and the benefits it offers its members
  • An activity system encapsulating the array of products and services, creating a series of entry points that widens the pool of prospective partners and magnifying what stakeholders most value from AASCU.
  • A brand narrative that equips AASCU with consistent and adaptable language to effectively communicate about their work, their mission, and their value proposition
  • Audience segmentation that prioritizes the highest leverage stakeholders, identifies desired actions, and lays out a blueprint for meaningful engagement
  • Stakeholder engagement strategy and tools to align key internal and external stakeholders

Shaping a community of practice

Hairpin helped AASCU to define, sharpen and articulate its Product and Service Offering. Mapping their approach in an integrated activity system centered around developing and strengthening communities of practice and consisting of: multiple points of entry, multiple pathways to participation, multiple, integrated resources and assets. Illustrating how AASCU provides a comprehensive suite of interrelated and complementary tools and resources designed to help leaders put student success at the center of institutions.

Charting priorities and desired impact

In line with AASCU’s new focus, Hairpin crafted a series of internal tools that facilitated strategic next steps. These tools determined key decision points, revitalized existing products, and guided innovation. Crucially, they also prioritized sustainable resource allocation and staff energy over a five-year period.