Lupita’s Oscar used as marketing tool for IB school program


Lupita Nyong’o accepts the Oscar for best actress in a supporting role for “12 Years a Slave” at the Academy Awards on March 2, 2014. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

How’s this for innovative marketing?

The  International Baccalaureate® is a non-profit educational foundation that offers several intellectually challenging programs for students from the ages of 3 to 19 that are used in schools around the world. In the United States, there are some 1,495 schools that offer one or more of the IB programs, and there are more than 1 million students in IB programs in more than 3,700 schools in 147 countries.

Looking for a way to raise its profile (and distinguish itself from its perceived competitor, the Advanced Placement program), IB marketers have found an ingenious marketing tool: the Oscar that Lupita Nyong’o just won for Best Supporting Actress in the film “12 Years a Slave,” in which she played an abused slave in the 19th century South.

A press release issued by the IB program noted that during her acceptance speech, Nyong’o mentioned that she had been educated in the theater arts at Yale University, which she attended as a graduate student after earning a bachelor’s at Hampshire College. The release also says:

Her successful completion of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme at St. Mary’s School in Nairobi, Kenya, was foundational to her academic success.  A member of the IB Class of 2000-01, Lupita studied Theatre Arts as one of her elective subjects, according to staff at St. Mary’s School. A statement from the school announced that “[Lupita] has made us IB Educators proud” and included the hope that more parents would in the future encourage their children to pursue their creative interests and talents in elective subjects like Theatre arts, Visual Arts, Film and Music.

“Lupita Nyong’o demonstrates where an IB education can take students ,” said Adrian Kearney, IB Director for Africa, Europe and the Middle East. “Lupita is representative of the hundreds of thousands of IB graduates who make significant contributions worldwide, in an array of industries, occupations and professions. IB graduates reflect the attributes of the IB learner profile, often exhibiting a blend of empathy, compassion and respect for others, along with a sense of balance, a collaborative spirit, an ability for reflection, personal knowledge and integrity.” Kearney adds, “We are proud that Lupita is an IB alumnus. Her focus and accomplished performance are completely in tune with her success as an IB student.

Hampshire College published on its Web site a story about Nyong’o’s win and her time at the college.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.

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Valerie Strauss · March 7, 2014