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September 23, 2010
Jennifer Devine
Director of Admission

The Elevator Speech



In my role as the Director of Admission at Lincoln School, I talk for hours every day about what makes Lincoln the best place for young girls to learn, grow, and develop into confident, well-educated alumnae. These women are contributing to our world in the most inspiring ways.  They have studied at competitive colleges and universities to become engineers, financial strategists, researchers, or physicians while others are building communities on far-away continents through volunteer service.  Some are teaching, publishing novels, or starting non-profits.  And they all recognize that their Lincoln experience has a lot to do with where they are now.

It is the parents within our own community who often ask me, “What can I say about Lincoln in three minutes or even thirty seconds when I meet a family who is looking at independent schools?”  For a long time, I struggled with that question.  I meet with prospective families quite often an hour at a time; visit our feeder schools; and speak with prospective students for much more extended periods of time.  I very rarely find myself in a position to have to summarize the Lincoln experience in the brief moment it takes to ride an elevator.  I realize, however, that as parents your lives are extremely busy and you may have just a minute to connect with a parent in your community after a town soccer game, or ten seconds as you walk to a meeting with a colleague.  You’ve often asked, how can I get this parent to consider Lincoln for their daughter?  Using the elevator context, if you are travelling more than five floors, perhaps you have time to share the FIVE reasons your daughter thrives at Lincoln.

My daughter thrives at Lincoln because…

  • it is a small school with a broad and enriched program
  • Lincoln focuses on girls’ athletics, activities, programs and passions
  • a girl can be her authentic self
  • the school provides an ethical and spiritual context for growth and development
  • her teachers are experts in the way girls learn and develop

Two years ago, a group of faculty and parent volunteers worked together for a year developing concepts for marketing the Lincoln experience.  The word “brand” seems so oppositional in an educational setting and yet the essence of “brand” is very fitting for schools.  Brand is, essentially, the promise of an experience and schools should be especially able to articulate that promise.  This particular group narrowed it down to THREE things, which might prove handy if you are only in the elevator for a floor or two:

Lincoln School=Academic Excellence + Large program in a small school community + Leadership for girls through Quaker values

But what about the very short encounter outside the elevator doors, when you are going up and the other person is stepping into the down car?  What one statement would have enough “staying power” in this busy, information-rich world in which we live?

At our first administrative meeting of the 2010-11 school year, I heard the words that I believe will take root. After sharing our different perspectives and reflecting on the opening school days, the discussion turned to admission and marketing.  Together we reviewed and brainstormed Lincoln’s “marketing message” and while we had many creative responses, Academic Dean and Upper School Director, Kathleen Macdonell put it simply, “Bottom line is, if you have a daughter, you can’t afford not to look at Lincoln”. 

I really do believe that this ONE statement speaks volumes.  The faculty here at Lincoln know girls.  They are the experts in understanding and responding to the ways girls learn. Lincoln girls appreciate that they are in an environment where they feel safe to speak out in class, where the focus is not on what you wear or what you look like but on the quality of your ideas, where it is “cool” to push oneself academically, and where they are supported by a faculty who knows how to bring out the best in each of them.  A family who misses the opportunity to explore Lincoln and witness the possibilities for their daughter is missing an essential piece of school research.

I have always said my role here comes naturally, because I believe that there is no better place for a girl to reach her fullest personal, leadership, athletic, and academic potential and I am blessed with the luxury of time in speaking with interested families.  While it is unlikely that you will find yourself with the perfect opportunity to talk about Lincoln while riding in an elevator, I appreciate that time is precious, that these moments of opportunity to share your enthusiasm for Lincoln pass quickly.  Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool and current parents provide some of the most credible messages.  Whether you choose the communication path of 5, 3, or 1, know that we are grateful you are doing your part in spreading the Lincoln message.

© 2014 Lincoln School | 301 Butler Avenue | Providence, RI 02906 | Ph: (401) 331 9696 | Fax: (401) 751 6670 
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