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August 26, 2010 10:00 AM American Wonks Out

By Daniel Luzer

Washington, DC’s American University has chosen a new marketing slogan. According to an article by Meg Fowler in American’s student newspaper, The Eagle:

After two years of research and discussion of what makes AU unique and reputable among hundreds of colleges and universities, a team of AU faculty, staff and students released a catch phrase today that will now serve as the rebranding statement to describe AU — “American Wonk.”

This means that T-shirts, brochures, marketing materials, and like everything in the college’s bookstore, will now sport this wonk language. American has even launched a website about the new slogan.

The campaign, devised by the marketing firm Simpson Scarborough, seemed peculiar to some members of the American community. In the words of Andy MacCracken, former American student government president:

“[Wonk] essentially means ‘nerd,’ which is fine,” …but I’m not sure that’s what really defines the AU community or separates it from the others. And I think had they really done this in a more collaborative way in terms of devising what this identity was going to be.

Wonk, a person preoccupied with arcane details or procedures in a specialized policy field, is not generally a term used positively, implying as it does a person’s removal from practicality and real life.

Wait, so which DC college will use the “partisan hack” moniker?

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer