When Audience Segmentation Turns Bad

I came across this series of blog posts from NYTimes columnists David Brooks. In his own words:

“…I asked readers over 70 to write autobiographical essays evaluating their own lives.”

I love that idea.

Higher ed could do take Brooks’ basic idea and fill some of the gaps that exist with prospects’ and students’ relative lack of life experience compared to alumni. Imagine if we offered the accumulated life experiences, lessons learned, career exposure and general worldliness of alums to the rest of our university’s community. It would create bonds of affinity (not to mention a deep well of outcome oriented stories) by tossing aside the artificial audience segmentations we’ve created as an industry- prospects, students, donors, faculty, alumni, parents, etc.

I see all audiences sitting on a continuum where boundaries only exist if you purposely create them. I’m an alum of the university I work for but I still feel I’m a student at heart. I know I’m not technically a student, but I identify myself as a life long learner which shares the same state of mind as a student who may be 20 years younger. So why put up a barrier between us and treat us separately? Our needs certainly differ in important ways and those needs to be accounted for, but at what expense and to what degree? I think any higher ed’s community shares more similarities than differences.