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'Quiet jewel' is ready to make some noise
UMW celebrates its new brand with the school's first-ever pep rally.

 The University of Mary Washington dance team performed for students and staff as part of yesterday's pep rally.
ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 10/8/2011

BY JEFF BRANSCOME

University of Mary Washington junior Ahmed Mohamed said he attended the school's first-ever pep rally yesterday for the free food and T-shirts.

But he said he left the event looking forward to UMW's future.

Mohamed and other students were impressed by the message of university President Rick Hurley, who served as the pep rally's host.

"It's nice to know he's trying really hard to cement a new idea and keep it there," he said.

The pep rally celebrated what Hurley called the school's new brand. Fittingly, it took place at the recently opened Anderson Center, which hosts convocations and sporting events.

Several hundred attendees got the first look at UMW's revamped website featuring the slogan: "Where great minds get to work." That phrase will accompany the university's logo.

"I am tired of the University of Mary Washington being the best-kept secret," said Hurley, whose goal is for UMW to be the best public liberal arts school in the nation. "And I'm tired of being told that we're a quiet jewel in the Virginia system. I want the whole world to know how good we are."

UMW paid Colorado-based consultant Educational Marketing Group $47,540 to help with its image overhaul.

"We're not changing who we are, we're just rethinking how we present ourselves to the outside world," Hurley said.

Students produced 14 videos focused on UMW's new "great minds" theme. Hurley showed the winning three--the grand prize was $500--at the pep rally.

He also unveiled pictures of students at various spots on campus, such as an outdoor amphitheater and the fitness center's roof. They will advertise the new slogan and appear in newspapers, billboards, shopping malls, websites and airports, Hurley said.

Asked about the message the pictures send, he said, "Our students think in different places and in different ways."

UMW junior Ahmed Elkheshin said the pep rally's turnout on a sunny Friday afternoon was decent by UMW standards.

"I think for the magnitude of this event it should've been a lot more," he said.

UMW senior Michael Behrens, who volunteered at the event, said he'll tell everyone to come if UMW has another pep rally. It was more fun than he expected.

In addition to Hurley's remarks, UMW's dance team performed, T-shirts were tossed into the crowd, and blue and white balloons dropped from the ceiling.

"It's kind of hard to not get energetic and involved when you have a president who's that vocal and that available across campus," Behrens said.

The audience repeatedly cheered Hurley's remarks, including when he mentioned his inauguration last week as UMW's ninth president.

"I think it's a very exciting time for us," Hurley told The Free Lance-Star. "It's a part of our overall effort to get the name of the university out there in more prominent ways and bring some visibility to ourselves."

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402
Email: jbranscome@freelancestar.com