The SUNY Cortland Brand

What separates SUNY Cortland from the hundreds of colleges and universities in our region and the thousands of institutions across the country? What does SUNY Cortland do differently — and better — than all the rest of them? The answer to these critical questions can be found in our positioning.

Based on comprehensive research and discovery, SUNY Cortland’s brand platform reveals the key insights that establish our positioning and ultimately guide our brand strategy.

Our brand mantra presents our strongest and most unique position in the market. This is not a tagline, but rather a simple, distilled phrase that forms a foundational point for our strategy.

Our brand pillars further define our competitive advantage through our three biggest strengths: what we believe in, what connects people to us, and what we do differently (and better) than other institutions.

Our personality and our foundation lay out how we authentically think of ourselves, and consequently, how we want the world to think of us. Personality words specifically help us establish and maintain a consistent tone throughout our communications.

Elements of the brand

At SUNY Cortland, our brand exists primarily in the perceptions people have about us: who we are, what we do, and why it matters.

Every time we communicate, whether it’s posting on social media, sending an email or talking with others directly, people form new opinions about SUNY Cortland based on their interactions with us.

That’s why it’s so important to be on the same page about our brand identity — the tangible, real-world system of design and copy we use every day to tell the world about ourselves.

The more consistent and confident we are when telling the SUNY Cortland story, the better our audiences will understand and trust what we have to say.

Key elements:

  • Theme
  • Brand promise
  • Brand attributes
  • Language
  • Brand pillars
  • Colors
  • Fonts
  • Photography


“All in.”

Brand promise

Brand promise

Halfway isn’t how we do things at SUNY Cortland.

We work hard.

That’s one reason why our graduates go on to lead meaningful lives all over the globe, in education, business, government, fitness, medicine, science and many other fields. From the classroom to the laboratory to remote wilderness trails, our students succeed in all settings.

We never give up.

That might explain why we’ve won more than 130 national championships in athletics. 

We tackle challenges head-on.

Red Dragon strong is more than an expression. It’s a way of saying that student success takes priority and relies on a collective effort across campus.

We’re proud to be the Red Dragons.

Because when every moment is a chance to take initiative, when you approach everything in life with an unshakable drive — from the most routine to the most rigorous — we believe you can set the world in motion. 

That’s the spirit of SUNY Cortland.

Brand attributes


  • High energy
    (Active, motivated, curious)      
  • Hardworking
    (Ambitious, passionate, sincere)
  • Kind
    (Welcoming, helpful, friendly) 
  • Outgoing
    (Spirited, social, optimistic)


  • High value
  • Welcoming
  • Diversity of programs

Brand pillars

With ambition

(What we do better or differently)

As a leader in New York state’s public university system, Cortland is a place where dedicated faculty members help students to pursue rigorous programs of study that integrate research, service and professional experience.

  • MESSAGE THEMES: science, business, education, outcomes, extracurricular opportunity

With spirit

(What connects people to us)

There’s an energy on campus: the intellectual curiosity in academic buildings, the commitment to personal well-being in our state-of-the-art Student Life Center and the pride that students display at athletic events.

  • MESSAGE THEMES: hands-on discovery, student life, athletics experience, quality of facilities

With purpose

(What we believe in)

At SUNY Cortland, success means doing things the right way and doing them well. We value teamwork — together taking pride in a problem solved, a job well done and a life made better.

MESSAGE THEMES: academic and athletic achievement, service, professional success


Language is a powerful tool in communicating the SUNY Cortland message, particularly in our print and online communications.

By consistently incorporating messages that support the university’s initiatives and brand attributes, we reinforce to our audiences what we are doing and how they will benefit from a SUNY Cortland education and experience.

The tone or “voice” of all communication materials — particularly the university website, the Viewbook, alumni and advancement materials — should be consistent.

The tone can be serious, contemplative and inspirational so that the reader is encouraged to reflect on his or her life while considering how SUNY Cortland will change and enhance it.

Tagline usage

Taglines and slogan creation is strongly discouraged. In most cases, a strategic marketing approach will provide better results and more flexibility.

Exceptions may be made in the case of short-term campus-wide initiatives. These messages must be submitted to the Marketing Committee for approval and must include proposed text and/or graphic elements and a plan for distribution and expiration of the promotion. Each initiative must meet brand and editorial style guidelines and have a hard expiration date before being considered.

Please contact the Marketing Office at 607-753-2519 for consultation and guidance regarding tagline usage.

Red Dragon Strong, Red Dragon Pride

The terms “Red Dragon Strong” and “Red Dragon Pride” help showcase the spirit of SUNY Cortland. They can be used in a variety of communications, including social media, news stories, and pieces for current students, recruiting or fundraising.

Both phrases are used to describe the university and can apply to all members of its community, including current and prospective students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of SUNY Cortland. While they may overlap, these two concepts are not interchangeable. Here are some tips for choosing the right one.

Red Dragon Strong

Use this to talk about overcoming adversity or to offer support through a challenge. “Red Dragon Strong” is an expression of compassion, solidarity and friendship.

Sample topics:

  • Providing encouragement or demonstrating perseverance during a challenging time. This can range from a global crisis like COVID-19, to Cortland-specific moments such as finals week or the passing of a faculty member, to individual difficulties and triumphs.
  • Offering advice or promoting helpful resources.
  • Displaying examples of courage or community service.
  • Celebrating the differences that make us stronger together.

Red Dragon Pride

Use this to recognize achievements and highlight the things that make SUNY Cortland and Red Dragons special.

Sample topics:

  • Celebrating academic, social and athletic feats or victories.
  • Honoring exceptional or award-winning individuals, teams or programs.
  • Discussing rankings or features that make SUNY Cortland one-of-a-kind.
  • Showing enthusiasm for the university.

Writing tips

Always capitalize the first letter of each word. In social media applications or discussions, include the hashtag: #RedDragonStrong, #RedDragonPride.

The SUNY Cortland name

The official, acceptable names for the university are SUNY Cortland and State University of New York College at Cortland.

Unacceptable names include:

  • C-State
  • Cortland College
  • Cortland State
  • Cortland State University
  • State University at Cortland
  • State College at Cortland
  • State University of New York at Cortland
  • SUC
  • S.U.C.C.
  • SUC-Cortland
  • SUNY College at Cortland
  • S.U.N.Y. Cortland
  • SUNY-Cortland


Our university has been known by various names since its founding in 1868. For the first 75 years of its existence, the institution was called the Cortland Normal School, a shortened version of its official title — The New York State Normal and Training School at Cortland.

In 1942, the New York Legislature officially changed the name to New York State Teachers College at Cortland, more popularly called Cortland State Teachers College. When the State University of New York (SUNY) was created six years later, the official name became the State University Teachers College, Cortland, New York, but Cortland State Teachers College (CSTC) and State University Teachers College (SUTC) remained the popular versions.

From 1959-61, the school briefly became the State University College of Education at Cortland (SUCE) before the SUNY Board of Trustees finally settled on State University College at Cortland (SUCC). Cortland State remained a widely used shortened version but was countered by the use of Cortland College in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Since 1996, the university has officially referred to itself as SUNY Cortland, a name that pays homage to the power of the State University of New York, the most comprehensive university system in the United States, as well as to the illustrious 140-year history of Cortland and its alumni, faculty, staff and students.

The university will continue to use SUNY Cortland exclusively as the shortened version of its full official name, State University of New York College at Cortland, to solidify the Cortland brand and to negate any public confusion that may arise from using multiple names to describe the same institution.