Other

Chef John Tesar on Portland and the Dumbing Down of Society


John Tesar is a chef and restaurateur with two highly celebrated restaurants in Dallas. One is a seafood concept, Spoon Bar & Kitchen; the other a steakhouse, Knife. He’s a two-time James Beard Best Chef: Southwest semifinalist and was also a contestant on Top Chef Masters. Tesar trained at La Varenne Ècole de Cuisine in Paris, and came to Dallas in 2007 to take over the reins at The Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, where he landed two five-star reviews.

And as if that isn’t enough, he is the brains behind many inventive menus. He is partnering on a number of upcoming culinary projects, and he’s working on a sustainable seafood book called Seafood Without an Ocean, slated to come out next year.

In short, John Tesar knows food, and he came to Feast Portland 2014 as a guest of co-founder Mike Thelin to get a lay of the land for next year’s event, were he plans to team up on a seafood dinner with Gregory Gourdet from Departures at The Nines in Portland. We had the opportunity to sit down with him and chat about Feast Portland, celebrity chefs versus cooks, and the dumbing down of society.

What attracted you to Feast?
The thing I like the most about Feast is Mike Thelin. I know there are other amazing people working on Feast. But he is the greatest front man and understands chefs and the business. And I know other people with other festivals understand it too. But he takes the time to really be there and make chefs feel special for being invited. I love Portland. It’s like a mini Seattle. Everything is right there. Mike, the people, and the location, that’s why I love Feast.

What are some of your favorite ingredients to work with these days?
I like to work with everything. The beauty of being me is I have a seafood restaurant and a meat restaurant so I get to touch everything. I’m aging my own beef. I’m making my own caviar. We look at the eggs. We wash the eggs. We add the right amount of salt and then they cure. That’s all caviar really is: eggs and salt.

What’s the one thing you wish most people knew about food?
There’s too much hype. Everyone has their own likes in food and it’s so subjective. Every day is a new day in the food business. There’s a new product every day. We are constantly buying things and constantly processing and constantly learning.

Food is not a job. It’s a lifestyle. It’s reflective of who you are. Who you are is how you live and what you eat. It’s a very simple thing because we all need to eat. But it’s very subjective and specific. Just because you like food doesn’t mean you’re a “foodie.” It means you like to eat. You need to know where things are coming from. There are too many foodies in the world.

What was your favorite moment of Feast this year?
Having dinner at Beast with Naomi Pomeroy and watching a celebrity chef really work. Preparing the meal, breaking down the kitchen. Mike invites people that are known but also who really work in the kitchen. That’s what makes Feast different; 99.9 percent of the chefs really cook. Feast is a cook’s food festival, not a chef’s food festival. It just happens that the cooks who are invited are chefs. But they all still cook in their kitchen.

What would you say has the biggest buzz in the world of food right now?
The general theme going on in the world is to end competitiveness in cooking. All the chefs, we’re all tired of it. What’s out there needs to be more informative and more travel. Enough with this basket with a rattlesnake, a blueberry and Chinese sausage. That’s not doing anything for food. It’s cultivating celebrity in chefs. I don’t think real chefs or real foodies watch those shows. It’s entertaining for the first few seasons but how long can we make this last?

There’s a trend more toward what Anthony Bourdain is doing, transcending travel and food to really exposing cultures to people and accepting other cultures’ food. It’s a return to more intellectual approach to food rather than fame side. Let’s change the message. That’s the why I like Top Chef because it’s really a story, the story about how you get there. It’s not just here’s a basket with macaroni, coffee grinds, and Chinese sausage. There always seems to be Chinese sausage. Why is that? That just shows the nature of creativity at the lowest form.

I believe that everything has been dumbed down in our society and that’s because it’s easy. To be smart takes time. You have to back it up. People aren’t even experiencing it. They’re just watching it on television. You don’t even taste the food. And the minute you start talking the word of corporate America you’re in trouble.


Knowing and Doing

In this era of rising costs, heightened competition, and falling public support for education, universities are becoming more and more driven by public relations. I encountered a perfect example at a meeting this morning.

One of the offices on campus was demoing a beta version of a new on-line tool that will help the university interact with students and community colleges. They plan to go 'live' with with the tool later this summer. Right now, they are introducing the tool to faculty on campus, both to get feedback to improve the program but also to build awareness of the tool among potential stakeholders.

Further, before going live, these folks plan to visit community colleges around the state to teach them about the tool, to build awareness among another key group of stakeholders. Then they'll present the tool to students here at the university and elsewhere.

One of their reasons for the concerted effort to spread the word so broadly was very pragmatic: After university public relations sends out press releases on this new tool, they expect the press to immediately ask community college folks what they think of about the tool's effect on them and their students. And the university wants these folks to be able to respond to press queries in an informed -- and, hopefully, positive -- way. Good words in the press make for good public relations.

The fact that the university is making an effort to educate potential users and stakeholders is not unusual I'd expect the same for any new tool. What struck me was the deliberate effort to move the education stage so early in the process, as a part of the PR initiative. And the campaign of enlightenment won't be limited to people directly affected by the tool and its use the university also plans to demo the tool to key legislators in the state and in the districts served by the community colleges. University/community college relations are a hot political issue these days, and the university wants fair attention given to its efforts to meet the desires of the folks who hold the purse strings, and the folks who elect those folks.

The PR campaign goes farther than just educating stakeholders. The unit responsible for this tool is already working on trademarking the name and logo of the software, to solidify their use in PR and to prevent unscrupulous competitors from swooping in after the launch and stealing intellectual property. (That flowery prose is mine, not the universities.)

I can't say that I blame the university for working so hard to shape its image before the legislature and the public at large. Perception is important. With so many entities competing for state appropriations, the university needs to sell itself better. Some might say that public agencies aren't competing, but they are. Within any given political culture, public funding is limited, so choices have to be made.

So long as the university doesn't subvert its purpose, or do things it wouldn't otherwise do for the sake of publicity, playing the PR game seems an unavoidable reality these days.

I've already about my department's effort to market a new program in bioinformatics. I view our efforts as a reasonable attempt to make information available to the people who need it in order to make informed choices about careers and educational opportunities. We will be moving forward this summer to let more students and teachers know about our program. For now, you can see a couple of pieces of literature developed by the university's PR department to help us, an 11"x17" poster (right) and an 8-1/2"x8-1/2" bifold brochure (PDF).


Knowing and Doing

In this era of rising costs, heightened competition, and falling public support for education, universities are becoming more and more driven by public relations. I encountered a perfect example at a meeting this morning.

One of the offices on campus was demoing a beta version of a new on-line tool that will help the university interact with students and community colleges. They plan to go 'live' with with the tool later this summer. Right now, they are introducing the tool to faculty on campus, both to get feedback to improve the program but also to build awareness of the tool among potential stakeholders.

Further, before going live, these folks plan to visit community colleges around the state to teach them about the tool, to build awareness among another key group of stakeholders. Then they'll present the tool to students here at the university and elsewhere.

One of their reasons for the concerted effort to spread the word so broadly was very pragmatic: After university public relations sends out press releases on this new tool, they expect the press to immediately ask community college folks what they think of about the tool's effect on them and their students. And the university wants these folks to be able to respond to press queries in an informed -- and, hopefully, positive -- way. Good words in the press make for good public relations.

The fact that the university is making an effort to educate potential users and stakeholders is not unusual I'd expect the same for any new tool. What struck me was the deliberate effort to move the education stage so early in the process, as a part of the PR initiative. And the campaign of enlightenment won't be limited to people directly affected by the tool and its use the university also plans to demo the tool to key legislators in the state and in the districts served by the community colleges. University/community college relations are a hot political issue these days, and the university wants fair attention given to its efforts to meet the desires of the folks who hold the purse strings, and the folks who elect those folks.

The PR campaign goes farther than just educating stakeholders. The unit responsible for this tool is already working on trademarking the name and logo of the software, to solidify their use in PR and to prevent unscrupulous competitors from swooping in after the launch and stealing intellectual property. (That flowery prose is mine, not the universities.)

I can't say that I blame the university for working so hard to shape its image before the legislature and the public at large. Perception is important. With so many entities competing for state appropriations, the university needs to sell itself better. Some might say that public agencies aren't competing, but they are. Within any given political culture, public funding is limited, so choices have to be made.

So long as the university doesn't subvert its purpose, or do things it wouldn't otherwise do for the sake of publicity, playing the PR game seems an unavoidable reality these days.

I've already about my department's effort to market a new program in bioinformatics. I view our efforts as a reasonable attempt to make information available to the people who need it in order to make informed choices about careers and educational opportunities. We will be moving forward this summer to let more students and teachers know about our program. For now, you can see a couple of pieces of literature developed by the university's PR department to help us, an 11"x17" poster (right) and an 8-1/2"x8-1/2" bifold brochure (PDF).


Knowing and Doing

In this era of rising costs, heightened competition, and falling public support for education, universities are becoming more and more driven by public relations. I encountered a perfect example at a meeting this morning.

One of the offices on campus was demoing a beta version of a new on-line tool that will help the university interact with students and community colleges. They plan to go 'live' with with the tool later this summer. Right now, they are introducing the tool to faculty on campus, both to get feedback to improve the program but also to build awareness of the tool among potential stakeholders.

Further, before going live, these folks plan to visit community colleges around the state to teach them about the tool, to build awareness among another key group of stakeholders. Then they'll present the tool to students here at the university and elsewhere.

One of their reasons for the concerted effort to spread the word so broadly was very pragmatic: After university public relations sends out press releases on this new tool, they expect the press to immediately ask community college folks what they think of about the tool's effect on them and their students. And the university wants these folks to be able to respond to press queries in an informed -- and, hopefully, positive -- way. Good words in the press make for good public relations.

The fact that the university is making an effort to educate potential users and stakeholders is not unusual I'd expect the same for any new tool. What struck me was the deliberate effort to move the education stage so early in the process, as a part of the PR initiative. And the campaign of enlightenment won't be limited to people directly affected by the tool and its use the university also plans to demo the tool to key legislators in the state and in the districts served by the community colleges. University/community college relations are a hot political issue these days, and the university wants fair attention given to its efforts to meet the desires of the folks who hold the purse strings, and the folks who elect those folks.

The PR campaign goes farther than just educating stakeholders. The unit responsible for this tool is already working on trademarking the name and logo of the software, to solidify their use in PR and to prevent unscrupulous competitors from swooping in after the launch and stealing intellectual property. (That flowery prose is mine, not the universities.)

I can't say that I blame the university for working so hard to shape its image before the legislature and the public at large. Perception is important. With so many entities competing for state appropriations, the university needs to sell itself better. Some might say that public agencies aren't competing, but they are. Within any given political culture, public funding is limited, so choices have to be made.

So long as the university doesn't subvert its purpose, or do things it wouldn't otherwise do for the sake of publicity, playing the PR game seems an unavoidable reality these days.

I've already about my department's effort to market a new program in bioinformatics. I view our efforts as a reasonable attempt to make information available to the people who need it in order to make informed choices about careers and educational opportunities. We will be moving forward this summer to let more students and teachers know about our program. For now, you can see a couple of pieces of literature developed by the university's PR department to help us, an 11"x17" poster (right) and an 8-1/2"x8-1/2" bifold brochure (PDF).


Knowing and Doing

In this era of rising costs, heightened competition, and falling public support for education, universities are becoming more and more driven by public relations. I encountered a perfect example at a meeting this morning.

One of the offices on campus was demoing a beta version of a new on-line tool that will help the university interact with students and community colleges. They plan to go 'live' with with the tool later this summer. Right now, they are introducing the tool to faculty on campus, both to get feedback to improve the program but also to build awareness of the tool among potential stakeholders.

Further, before going live, these folks plan to visit community colleges around the state to teach them about the tool, to build awareness among another key group of stakeholders. Then they'll present the tool to students here at the university and elsewhere.

One of their reasons for the concerted effort to spread the word so broadly was very pragmatic: After university public relations sends out press releases on this new tool, they expect the press to immediately ask community college folks what they think of about the tool's effect on them and their students. And the university wants these folks to be able to respond to press queries in an informed -- and, hopefully, positive -- way. Good words in the press make for good public relations.

The fact that the university is making an effort to educate potential users and stakeholders is not unusual I'd expect the same for any new tool. What struck me was the deliberate effort to move the education stage so early in the process, as a part of the PR initiative. And the campaign of enlightenment won't be limited to people directly affected by the tool and its use the university also plans to demo the tool to key legislators in the state and in the districts served by the community colleges. University/community college relations are a hot political issue these days, and the university wants fair attention given to its efforts to meet the desires of the folks who hold the purse strings, and the folks who elect those folks.

The PR campaign goes farther than just educating stakeholders. The unit responsible for this tool is already working on trademarking the name and logo of the software, to solidify their use in PR and to prevent unscrupulous competitors from swooping in after the launch and stealing intellectual property. (That flowery prose is mine, not the universities.)

I can't say that I blame the university for working so hard to shape its image before the legislature and the public at large. Perception is important. With so many entities competing for state appropriations, the university needs to sell itself better. Some might say that public agencies aren't competing, but they are. Within any given political culture, public funding is limited, so choices have to be made.

So long as the university doesn't subvert its purpose, or do things it wouldn't otherwise do for the sake of publicity, playing the PR game seems an unavoidable reality these days.

I've already about my department's effort to market a new program in bioinformatics. I view our efforts as a reasonable attempt to make information available to the people who need it in order to make informed choices about careers and educational opportunities. We will be moving forward this summer to let more students and teachers know about our program. For now, you can see a couple of pieces of literature developed by the university's PR department to help us, an 11"x17" poster (right) and an 8-1/2"x8-1/2" bifold brochure (PDF).


Knowing and Doing

In this era of rising costs, heightened competition, and falling public support for education, universities are becoming more and more driven by public relations. I encountered a perfect example at a meeting this morning.

One of the offices on campus was demoing a beta version of a new on-line tool that will help the university interact with students and community colleges. They plan to go 'live' with with the tool later this summer. Right now, they are introducing the tool to faculty on campus, both to get feedback to improve the program but also to build awareness of the tool among potential stakeholders.

Further, before going live, these folks plan to visit community colleges around the state to teach them about the tool, to build awareness among another key group of stakeholders. Then they'll present the tool to students here at the university and elsewhere.

One of their reasons for the concerted effort to spread the word so broadly was very pragmatic: After university public relations sends out press releases on this new tool, they expect the press to immediately ask community college folks what they think of about the tool's effect on them and their students. And the university wants these folks to be able to respond to press queries in an informed -- and, hopefully, positive -- way. Good words in the press make for good public relations.

The fact that the university is making an effort to educate potential users and stakeholders is not unusual I'd expect the same for any new tool. What struck me was the deliberate effort to move the education stage so early in the process, as a part of the PR initiative. And the campaign of enlightenment won't be limited to people directly affected by the tool and its use the university also plans to demo the tool to key legislators in the state and in the districts served by the community colleges. University/community college relations are a hot political issue these days, and the university wants fair attention given to its efforts to meet the desires of the folks who hold the purse strings, and the folks who elect those folks.

The PR campaign goes farther than just educating stakeholders. The unit responsible for this tool is already working on trademarking the name and logo of the software, to solidify their use in PR and to prevent unscrupulous competitors from swooping in after the launch and stealing intellectual property. (That flowery prose is mine, not the universities.)

I can't say that I blame the university for working so hard to shape its image before the legislature and the public at large. Perception is important. With so many entities competing for state appropriations, the university needs to sell itself better. Some might say that public agencies aren't competing, but they are. Within any given political culture, public funding is limited, so choices have to be made.

So long as the university doesn't subvert its purpose, or do things it wouldn't otherwise do for the sake of publicity, playing the PR game seems an unavoidable reality these days.

I've already about my department's effort to market a new program in bioinformatics. I view our efforts as a reasonable attempt to make information available to the people who need it in order to make informed choices about careers and educational opportunities. We will be moving forward this summer to let more students and teachers know about our program. For now, you can see a couple of pieces of literature developed by the university's PR department to help us, an 11"x17" poster (right) and an 8-1/2"x8-1/2" bifold brochure (PDF).


Knowing and Doing

In this era of rising costs, heightened competition, and falling public support for education, universities are becoming more and more driven by public relations. I encountered a perfect example at a meeting this morning.

One of the offices on campus was demoing a beta version of a new on-line tool that will help the university interact with students and community colleges. They plan to go 'live' with with the tool later this summer. Right now, they are introducing the tool to faculty on campus, both to get feedback to improve the program but also to build awareness of the tool among potential stakeholders.

Further, before going live, these folks plan to visit community colleges around the state to teach them about the tool, to build awareness among another key group of stakeholders. Then they'll present the tool to students here at the university and elsewhere.

One of their reasons for the concerted effort to spread the word so broadly was very pragmatic: After university public relations sends out press releases on this new tool, they expect the press to immediately ask community college folks what they think of about the tool's effect on them and their students. And the university wants these folks to be able to respond to press queries in an informed -- and, hopefully, positive -- way. Good words in the press make for good public relations.

The fact that the university is making an effort to educate potential users and stakeholders is not unusual I'd expect the same for any new tool. What struck me was the deliberate effort to move the education stage so early in the process, as a part of the PR initiative. And the campaign of enlightenment won't be limited to people directly affected by the tool and its use the university also plans to demo the tool to key legislators in the state and in the districts served by the community colleges. University/community college relations are a hot political issue these days, and the university wants fair attention given to its efforts to meet the desires of the folks who hold the purse strings, and the folks who elect those folks.

The PR campaign goes farther than just educating stakeholders. The unit responsible for this tool is already working on trademarking the name and logo of the software, to solidify their use in PR and to prevent unscrupulous competitors from swooping in after the launch and stealing intellectual property. (That flowery prose is mine, not the universities.)

I can't say that I blame the university for working so hard to shape its image before the legislature and the public at large. Perception is important. With so many entities competing for state appropriations, the university needs to sell itself better. Some might say that public agencies aren't competing, but they are. Within any given political culture, public funding is limited, so choices have to be made.

So long as the university doesn't subvert its purpose, or do things it wouldn't otherwise do for the sake of publicity, playing the PR game seems an unavoidable reality these days.

I've already about my department's effort to market a new program in bioinformatics. I view our efforts as a reasonable attempt to make information available to the people who need it in order to make informed choices about careers and educational opportunities. We will be moving forward this summer to let more students and teachers know about our program. For now, you can see a couple of pieces of literature developed by the university's PR department to help us, an 11"x17" poster (right) and an 8-1/2"x8-1/2" bifold brochure (PDF).


Knowing and Doing

In this era of rising costs, heightened competition, and falling public support for education, universities are becoming more and more driven by public relations. I encountered a perfect example at a meeting this morning.

One of the offices on campus was demoing a beta version of a new on-line tool that will help the university interact with students and community colleges. They plan to go 'live' with with the tool later this summer. Right now, they are introducing the tool to faculty on campus, both to get feedback to improve the program but also to build awareness of the tool among potential stakeholders.

Further, before going live, these folks plan to visit community colleges around the state to teach them about the tool, to build awareness among another key group of stakeholders. Then they'll present the tool to students here at the university and elsewhere.

One of their reasons for the concerted effort to spread the word so broadly was very pragmatic: After university public relations sends out press releases on this new tool, they expect the press to immediately ask community college folks what they think of about the tool's effect on them and their students. And the university wants these folks to be able to respond to press queries in an informed -- and, hopefully, positive -- way. Good words in the press make for good public relations.

The fact that the university is making an effort to educate potential users and stakeholders is not unusual I'd expect the same for any new tool. What struck me was the deliberate effort to move the education stage so early in the process, as a part of the PR initiative. And the campaign of enlightenment won't be limited to people directly affected by the tool and its use the university also plans to demo the tool to key legislators in the state and in the districts served by the community colleges. University/community college relations are a hot political issue these days, and the university wants fair attention given to its efforts to meet the desires of the folks who hold the purse strings, and the folks who elect those folks.

The PR campaign goes farther than just educating stakeholders. The unit responsible for this tool is already working on trademarking the name and logo of the software, to solidify their use in PR and to prevent unscrupulous competitors from swooping in after the launch and stealing intellectual property. (That flowery prose is mine, not the universities.)

I can't say that I blame the university for working so hard to shape its image before the legislature and the public at large. Perception is important. With so many entities competing for state appropriations, the university needs to sell itself better. Some might say that public agencies aren't competing, but they are. Within any given political culture, public funding is limited, so choices have to be made.

So long as the university doesn't subvert its purpose, or do things it wouldn't otherwise do for the sake of publicity, playing the PR game seems an unavoidable reality these days.

I've already about my department's effort to market a new program in bioinformatics. I view our efforts as a reasonable attempt to make information available to the people who need it in order to make informed choices about careers and educational opportunities. We will be moving forward this summer to let more students and teachers know about our program. For now, you can see a couple of pieces of literature developed by the university's PR department to help us, an 11"x17" poster (right) and an 8-1/2"x8-1/2" bifold brochure (PDF).


Knowing and Doing

In this era of rising costs, heightened competition, and falling public support for education, universities are becoming more and more driven by public relations. I encountered a perfect example at a meeting this morning.

One of the offices on campus was demoing a beta version of a new on-line tool that will help the university interact with students and community colleges. They plan to go 'live' with with the tool later this summer. Right now, they are introducing the tool to faculty on campus, both to get feedback to improve the program but also to build awareness of the tool among potential stakeholders.

Further, before going live, these folks plan to visit community colleges around the state to teach them about the tool, to build awareness among another key group of stakeholders. Then they'll present the tool to students here at the university and elsewhere.

One of their reasons for the concerted effort to spread the word so broadly was very pragmatic: After university public relations sends out press releases on this new tool, they expect the press to immediately ask community college folks what they think of about the tool's effect on them and their students. And the university wants these folks to be able to respond to press queries in an informed -- and, hopefully, positive -- way. Good words in the press make for good public relations.

The fact that the university is making an effort to educate potential users and stakeholders is not unusual I'd expect the same for any new tool. What struck me was the deliberate effort to move the education stage so early in the process, as a part of the PR initiative. And the campaign of enlightenment won't be limited to people directly affected by the tool and its use the university also plans to demo the tool to key legislators in the state and in the districts served by the community colleges. University/community college relations are a hot political issue these days, and the university wants fair attention given to its efforts to meet the desires of the folks who hold the purse strings, and the folks who elect those folks.

The PR campaign goes farther than just educating stakeholders. The unit responsible for this tool is already working on trademarking the name and logo of the software, to solidify their use in PR and to prevent unscrupulous competitors from swooping in after the launch and stealing intellectual property. (That flowery prose is mine, not the universities.)

I can't say that I blame the university for working so hard to shape its image before the legislature and the public at large. Perception is important. With so many entities competing for state appropriations, the university needs to sell itself better. Some might say that public agencies aren't competing, but they are. Within any given political culture, public funding is limited, so choices have to be made.

So long as the university doesn't subvert its purpose, or do things it wouldn't otherwise do for the sake of publicity, playing the PR game seems an unavoidable reality these days.

I've already about my department's effort to market a new program in bioinformatics. I view our efforts as a reasonable attempt to make information available to the people who need it in order to make informed choices about careers and educational opportunities. We will be moving forward this summer to let more students and teachers know about our program. For now, you can see a couple of pieces of literature developed by the university's PR department to help us, an 11"x17" poster (right) and an 8-1/2"x8-1/2" bifold brochure (PDF).


Knowing and Doing

In this era of rising costs, heightened competition, and falling public support for education, universities are becoming more and more driven by public relations. I encountered a perfect example at a meeting this morning.

One of the offices on campus was demoing a beta version of a new on-line tool that will help the university interact with students and community colleges. They plan to go 'live' with with the tool later this summer. Right now, they are introducing the tool to faculty on campus, both to get feedback to improve the program but also to build awareness of the tool among potential stakeholders.

Further, before going live, these folks plan to visit community colleges around the state to teach them about the tool, to build awareness among another key group of stakeholders. Then they'll present the tool to students here at the university and elsewhere.

One of their reasons for the concerted effort to spread the word so broadly was very pragmatic: After university public relations sends out press releases on this new tool, they expect the press to immediately ask community college folks what they think of about the tool's effect on them and their students. And the university wants these folks to be able to respond to press queries in an informed -- and, hopefully, positive -- way. Good words in the press make for good public relations.

The fact that the university is making an effort to educate potential users and stakeholders is not unusual I'd expect the same for any new tool. What struck me was the deliberate effort to move the education stage so early in the process, as a part of the PR initiative. And the campaign of enlightenment won't be limited to people directly affected by the tool and its use the university also plans to demo the tool to key legislators in the state and in the districts served by the community colleges. University/community college relations are a hot political issue these days, and the university wants fair attention given to its efforts to meet the desires of the folks who hold the purse strings, and the folks who elect those folks.

The PR campaign goes farther than just educating stakeholders. The unit responsible for this tool is already working on trademarking the name and logo of the software, to solidify their use in PR and to prevent unscrupulous competitors from swooping in after the launch and stealing intellectual property. (That flowery prose is mine, not the universities.)

I can't say that I blame the university for working so hard to shape its image before the legislature and the public at large. Perception is important. With so many entities competing for state appropriations, the university needs to sell itself better. Some might say that public agencies aren't competing, but they are. Within any given political culture, public funding is limited, so choices have to be made.

So long as the university doesn't subvert its purpose, or do things it wouldn't otherwise do for the sake of publicity, playing the PR game seems an unavoidable reality these days.

I've already about my department's effort to market a new program in bioinformatics. I view our efforts as a reasonable attempt to make information available to the people who need it in order to make informed choices about careers and educational opportunities. We will be moving forward this summer to let more students and teachers know about our program. For now, you can see a couple of pieces of literature developed by the university's PR department to help us, an 11"x17" poster (right) and an 8-1/2"x8-1/2" bifold brochure (PDF).


Knowing and Doing

In this era of rising costs, heightened competition, and falling public support for education, universities are becoming more and more driven by public relations. I encountered a perfect example at a meeting this morning.

One of the offices on campus was demoing a beta version of a new on-line tool that will help the university interact with students and community colleges. They plan to go 'live' with with the tool later this summer. Right now, they are introducing the tool to faculty on campus, both to get feedback to improve the program but also to build awareness of the tool among potential stakeholders.

Further, before going live, these folks plan to visit community colleges around the state to teach them about the tool, to build awareness among another key group of stakeholders. Then they'll present the tool to students here at the university and elsewhere.

One of their reasons for the concerted effort to spread the word so broadly was very pragmatic: After university public relations sends out press releases on this new tool, they expect the press to immediately ask community college folks what they think of about the tool's effect on them and their students. And the university wants these folks to be able to respond to press queries in an informed -- and, hopefully, positive -- way. Good words in the press make for good public relations.

The fact that the university is making an effort to educate potential users and stakeholders is not unusual I'd expect the same for any new tool. What struck me was the deliberate effort to move the education stage so early in the process, as a part of the PR initiative. And the campaign of enlightenment won't be limited to people directly affected by the tool and its use the university also plans to demo the tool to key legislators in the state and in the districts served by the community colleges. University/community college relations are a hot political issue these days, and the university wants fair attention given to its efforts to meet the desires of the folks who hold the purse strings, and the folks who elect those folks.

The PR campaign goes farther than just educating stakeholders. The unit responsible for this tool is already working on trademarking the name and logo of the software, to solidify their use in PR and to prevent unscrupulous competitors from swooping in after the launch and stealing intellectual property. (That flowery prose is mine, not the universities.)

I can't say that I blame the university for working so hard to shape its image before the legislature and the public at large. Perception is important. With so many entities competing for state appropriations, the university needs to sell itself better. Some might say that public agencies aren't competing, but they are. Within any given political culture, public funding is limited, so choices have to be made.

So long as the university doesn't subvert its purpose, or do things it wouldn't otherwise do for the sake of publicity, playing the PR game seems an unavoidable reality these days.

I've already about my department's effort to market a new program in bioinformatics. I view our efforts as a reasonable attempt to make information available to the people who need it in order to make informed choices about careers and educational opportunities. We will be moving forward this summer to let more students and teachers know about our program. For now, you can see a couple of pieces of literature developed by the university's PR department to help us, an 11"x17" poster (right) and an 8-1/2"x8-1/2" bifold brochure (PDF).


Watch the video: Top Chef alum opens Bullard in Downtown Portland (October 2021).