Community Building

6 Interesting topics to put in your Alumni Magazine

It’s challenging to write newsletters or magazines that will trigger the interest of all alumni, young and old, from different faculties, and with unique views of the world. Some very famous Alumni Magazines are doing a great job at it. Maybe we can learn from them.

Below, 6 columns all from famous Universities’ Alumni Magazines that may inspire your for your next articles and newsletters.

Stories from the past (Yale)

I don’t know Judith Schiff, but from what I’ve read, she must be a very passionate Research Archivist, for she seems to be able to pull out from Yale’s entrails the most amazing stories from a hundred years ago.

Judith Schiff
Judith Schiff - Chief Research Archivist at Yale University Library

Although the concept is quite simple - writing stories about very old Yale alumni - the hardest part of the job, I imagine, lies in the research required to actually write the story. Imagine that for every issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine, Judith digs up a new story from the Yale archives.

That’s definitely an interesting concept that could interest many alumni. It is however not within everyone’s reach. To pull this off, a university needs a strong History. And a lot of data.

Source: Yale Alumni Magazine
Column Name: Old Yale
Author: Judith Schiff
Topic: A passionate (and nosy) Yale Research Archivist does a particularly good job at digging up great stories about amazing Yale graduates from the past. Way past
Sample Articles: Building a better student body, A genius, but mad, The first Yale man dead in World War I, all by Judith Schiff

I particularly appreciated that column. Column Named Your Career. It talks about the many things you can do to make your job easier. Whether it’s about leadership, operations, or stress management, every alumnus can relate to these articles, and learn from their insights.

The variety of topics is also ensured, as many writers (all alumni) take part in this column. The most active of them, Alexander Tuff, is a 2003 alumnus now President of Winged Keel Group. Reading him share his experience is a true delight.

Definitely something that can be implemented in every Alumni Magazine. I’m guessing it can be a challenge to motivate some alumni to take time out of their busy schedules to write, but the variety of articles and their level of insights are what makes Your Career so popular.

Alexander Tuff
Alexander Tuff graduated from Columbia in 2003. He's the President of Winged Keel Group.

Source: Columbia Business Alumni Magazine
Column Name: Your career
Authors: Alexander Tuff, David Kachoui, Julia McNamara, and many others
Topic: insightful articles written by alumni with important positions on leadership, management, communications, and many other topics that are useful on a day-to-day basis at work
Sample Articles: Getting Your People Strategy Right by Alexander Tuff, What is a Manager’s Best Approach to Quality? by David Kachoui, How Do You Make a Memorable First Impression? by Julia McNamara

Heartfelt essays (Northwestern)

Purple Prose is a column in the Northwestern University Alumni Magazine. For every single issue of the magazine, a different alumnus writes a 800 word first-person essay. The goal is to share about something they are passionate about. It can be related to work or life. It can be serious or humorous.

Lisa Braxton
Lisa Braxton shares a beautiful story that happened to her while volunteering with kids.

Once again, it is amazing to see alumni actively take part and write in their own Magazine. In the case of Purple Prose, alumni share personal heartfelt stories.

Source: Northwestern University Alumni Magazine
Column Name: Purple Prose
Editor: Stephanie Russell
Topic: alumni write an 800 word, first-person essay on something they feel passionate about
Sample Articles: To Err Is Human, To Own Up, Sublime by Claire Lew, Trust Yourself by Lisa Braxton, Sound Off by Neil Tesser

Claire Lew
Claire Lew shares a very difficult time during her job as CEO of Know Your Company.

A Cultural Detour (Harvard)

In its Magazine, Harvard dedicates several articles to arts and culture, history, cuisine, and natural beauty of Cambridge, Boston, and beyond. The main author of these articles, Nell Porter Brown, talks about cultural events happening locally in the area of Cambridge.

Why should an Alumni Magazine restrict its articles to things related to the university indeed? I bet many alumni from Harvard are looking forward to next edition of the magazine to find out about interesting things to do the next weekend.

A cultural detour
Between cooking cabaret-style shows winter activites and danse Nell Porter Brown brings many ideas for the alumni in search of a weekend activity.

Source: Harvard Alumni Magazine
Column Name: Harvard Squared
Main Author: Nell Porter Brown
Topic: Nothing about the university or its alumni. Just interesting suggestions of cultural events to attend in the area near Harvard
Sample Articles: Kitchen Arts, Ubu Abounds, WinterFest Weekends, all by Nell Porter Brown

Research Breakthroughs (Stanford)

Obviously, the idea of writing about the university’s latest breakthroughs in terms of research is nothing new. But I like very much the way Stanford does it.

First of all, every article in their Breakthroughs, Briefly column is very short: usually no more than 500 words. This makes the content fast to read; the reader has no time to get bored. Second, the articles are usually accessible to anyone. No need to have a PhD in the specific topic to understand what they talk about.

This makes for a light, refreshing, and interesting read that can be approached by all alumni, regardless of their faculty.

articles of Breakthroughs briefly
All articles in _Breakthroughs Briefly_ are fast and easy to read.

Source: Stanford Alumni Magazine
Column Name: Breakthroughs, Briefly
Author(s): unknown
Topic: very short, easy-to-read articles on the latest breakthroughs happening at Stanford University
Sample Articles: Making Skin That “Feels”, Eating Away at Plastics Polutions, Emails for Posterity

A closer look at a Professor (Washington)

Most Alumni Magazines are usually publishing an article on one specific alumnus in each edition of their magazine. But the University of Washington has given it a very nice twist: instead of choosing an alumnus, they publish short articles on Researchers and Professors of the university.

Many alumni who have worked under one of these professors in the past will be thrilled to read an article about them.

David Montgomery
The Faculty Profile on David Montgomery - Geomorphologist at the University of Washington - goes deeper than just work and tells a compelling personal story.

Source: Washington University Alumni Magazine
Column Name: Faculty Profile
Authors: Paul Fontana, Julie Garner, Meg Cressey
Topic: short articles presenting a specific Professor or Researcher of the university. A nice change to the traditional alumni portraits
Sample Articles: David Montgomery, Geomorphologist by Paul Fontana, Wylie Burke, Genetic Ethicist by Julie Garner, Shelly Gray, Professor/Researcher by Meg Cressey


Maybe the major take-away from this post (at least for me) is that by getting more alumni to pitch in, one can obtain a colorful and very interesting magazine, even for outsiders!