Competitors challenge us us to do our best, whether it’s the space race, Apple versus Microsoft, or alumni relations at competing universities.
In “Rev Up Your Rivalry,” in the November/December issue of Currents, we explore what defines a campus rivalry.
Three keys are proximity, competitive parity, and frequent exposure, says Benjamin Converse, a University of Virginia psychology professor who has studied rivalries. Consider Duke University and the University of North Carolina’s basketball rivalry. The campuses are 10 miles apart, the teams constantly compete for championships, and they play each other at least twice a year. In China, only 1.2 miles separate Tsinghua University and Peking University, two of the country’s most prestigious and competitive institutions. Institutions that are geographically close—and experience similar levels of success—also tend to compete for the same resources, from recruits to money, according to a study by the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
A rival is almost like a significant other, Converse says. As with old friends and family members, you share strong ties and a meaningful, memorable past. Because of that, the competition is amplified by your shared history, electrified by ecstatic victories (and gut-wrenching losses), all of which create legends, legacies, and lore.
For alumni associations, rivalries provide an opportunity to:
- capitalize on that emotional history,
- remind supporters of their strong ties to the institution, and
- energize alumni.
Explore the full Currents story for how institutions leverage rivalries for fun, fundraising and service.
Then, join us to swap stories about rivalry and campus traditions during our next #casesmc Twitter chat on Tuesday, Nov. 14, moderated by Jamie Lewis of the University of Georgia.