From UB

In 2001, administrators at Plymouth State University began pondering the notion of giving alumni access to their own web portal, just as undergraduates at the New Hampshire institution had since 2000. The idea was for the portal to provide alumni with a simple way to connect with the university and with each other.

Then, in 2003, a little thing called Facebook arrived on the college scene.

"We had gone through our entire design process, and then Facebook and MySpace explode," says Joe Long, director of alumni relations for Plymouth State. "It didn't change what we were building," says Long, referring to the popularity of social networking sites, "but it made us change our expectations for the product. It gave us a good chance to narrow who we wanted to be engaged with and how we would provide it for them. What is our competition out there? How has it changed?"

Good questions-and ones that are being asked by alumni affairs administrators everywhere. How can alumni offices stay on top of technology offerings without getting too trendy? How can administrators know what online tools next year's students (and therefore soon-to-be alumni) will want?

These questions are popping up fast with the rise of Web 2.0, the second burst of innovation and adoption in the online world. Knowing how to answer them will place administrators in greater positions of power.

"This is really the second big online wave for schools, the first being putting up online alumni directories," says Fred Waugh, director of marketing for Convio, the internet software and services company that serves institutions of higher education and nonprofits. It's time for IHEs "to revisit their strategy and decide what they need to be over the next five years," says Waugh.

Seamless web portals, targeted e-marketing, and partnerships with professional networking sites are just some of the options available to alumni relations offices looking to connect with graduates. Here's how a few institutions, as well as technology vendors knee-deep in product development, are utilizing today's online tools.

Facebook and MySpace, as well as other online networking communities such as LinkedIn, are the 800-pound gorillas in alumni relations offices these days. How to handle them-some people see them as competition, others as complementary sources of information-is a question still being answered.

"What we're seeing now as part of Web 2.0 is alumni out there creating their own communities," says Waugh. "Those things are really out of the control of the alumni relations group, and there's some fear and uncertainty about how to deal with them."

For Convio and its client schools, Facebook, MySpace, Classmates.com, and other sites are being treated as sources of opportunity, not obstacles. "Schools have to embrace those communities wherever they exist," notes Waugh. "How can we tap into the independent communities that are out there and get them to support us?"

Convio, for one, is working to introduce tools that will make it easier for schools to connect with social networking sites. Options under consideration include:

Giving institutions the ability to post banner ads on social networking sites.

Establishing relationships so that institutions can gather alumni data from networking sites.

Exploring sponsorship possibilities.

These types of strategies can help college and university leaders acknowledge and take advantage of popular online tools, as opposed to ignoring them out of fear or close-mindedness. If alumni want networking sites to be a part of their lives, why shouldn't alumni offices help make that happen?

One institution, the California Institute of Technology, is taking a particularly aggressive approach to online networking as a benefit for alumni. The Caltech Alumni Association works directly with the business networking site LinkedIn to boost connections and build awareness.

Andrew Shaindlin, executive director of the alumni association, thought to formalize a relationship between Caltech and LinkedIn, which has more than 7.5 million users, after seeing how much he used and trusted LinkedIn himself. Facebook and MySpace appeal to young alumni who have gone through college with e-mail, Instant Messenger, and social networking sites, but LinkedIn focuses more on professional networking (and therefore appeals to a broader audience, agewise).

Shaindlin says he launched the Caltech Alumni group in LinkedIn for two reasons. "We didn't want someone who was not officially a representative of the institution to create an alumni group that, even with good intentions, we might be responsible for," he says. "So in a way it was kind of preemptive to make sure that we had first dibs on the Caltech Alumni Association group within LinkedIn."

"But more than that," he adds, "I thought it was a good direction to move in anyway. The indicators that we saw were the growth of online networking in general, and the relevance of online business networking in particular, to our goals for the alumni organization."

The Caltech alumni group is one of many on LinkedIn overseen by institutions of higher education. Here's how it has worked for Caltech: The alumni association pushed the launch by featuring it in the quarterly alumni publication, Caltech News; noting it on the association home page; and mentioning it in a bimonthly e-mail newsletter to alumni. The group was free for the alumni association (although since that time, LinkedIn has begun offering more advanced group options that cost either $5,000 or $25,000 a year).

Staffers from Caltech were given the ability to verify a user's status as a Caltech alum before the user could join the LinkedIn group. "If LinkedIn wanted, they could let anyone join the group, but we don't want that," says Shaindlin. "This is a privilege you earn by attending Caltech."

Once the group got off the ground, alumni association leaders decided to step up to premium level, which costs $5,000 a year and provides greater back-end administrative functions, according to Wen-Wen Lam, marketing manager for LinkedIn. Rather than have someone approve each user, now the alumni association can provide a link to alumni; if individuals register through the link, they are automatically confirmed as group members.

To boost membership, LinkedIn and the alumni association partnered to send a joint marketing e-mail to LinkedIn members who were Caltech grads but had not joined the group. Within a week, the strategy swelled the ranks of the group from 630 members to 1,000 (more than 5 percent of the alumni association's addressable base). The open rate for the marketing e-mail was 49 percent, with an estimated conversion rate of 81 percent.

Today, the Caltech Alumni LinkedIn group has approximately 1,300 members out of 20,000 total institutional alumni. The alumni association has found Caltech graduates who were on LinkedIn but, for whatever reason, did not have an e-mail address registered with the association.

"The value to alumni is creating a way to bridge the gap between that private, internal, authentic alumni community and all of the external connections that many alumni have based on career, etc.," says Shaindlin. "If you stick with the old model-this is a private club and no one else is allowed to interact with my people-you miss the opportunity that you get with LinkedIn, where you get the best of both worlds."

Shaindlin hopes to organize alumni administrators from various colleges to work together with sites such as LinkedIn. Doing so, he notes, could help drive the content and format of networking sites while giving higher ed a strengthened presence.

Networking websites undoubtedly have their upsides, but they can also be volatile (some people feel the popularity of the sites echoes the first internet boom of the 1990s, when dot-coms became popular but did not show profits). A higher ed institution's site, on the other hand, can be a reliable and consistent source for alumni.

That tenet underlies a key strategy for Plymouth State, a school of 6,500 students that implemented its alumni web portal in February 2005. "You hear how quickly something goes from hot to not," says Joe Long, director of alumni relations. "So you really want to look at capturing those long-term avenues, not necessarily spending money keeping up with the hottest item. There's always going to be something newer and better coming up. We want to make sure that we are a constant for (alumni)."

Plymouth State's portal is an extension of the one used for the university's undergraduates, providing a seamless experience for students as they graduate and go out into the professional world. The portal, called myPlymouth, is built on the Luminis Platform and Banner administrative system from SunGard Higher Education. Since data from Banner is integrated into the portal, the university is able to keep track of an individual even as his or her status changes from student to alum.


A web portal for alumni can help streamline the crucial turning point between college and the working world.

The Plymouth State portal also changes with users' enrollment status; alumni see such things as "Alumni News" and have the ability to print out unofficial transcripts. Graduates receive lifetime e-mail accounts through the portal (and so far, 25,000 alumni have signed up).

Administrators hope to smooth the student-to-alumni transition even further by creating a portal for students in their senior year, to be rolled out in fall 2007. Users will be presented with such senior-specific content as tips about graduation, careers, and activities.

These strategies do not require deep pockets. Since Plymouth State already had an undergraduate portal in place, adding the alumni portal and the senior portal to myPlymouth only cost the university in-house personnel hours for development. Plymouth State's Alumni Relations office pushes use of the portal through an online magazine and an e-mail newsletter. After each mention, a 20 to 25 percent surge of activity on the portal is common, Long says.

The benefits of the portal are already clear. "It has increased our level of volunteers," notes Long. With the alumni portal in place, the number of online gifts has also increased fourfold since the university launched online giving in late 2004. The portal helps Plymouth State capture that crucial turning point between college and the working world. "This is our way of making sure that alumni think of themselves as alumni at 21," says Kenneth Kochien, director of management information systems and instructional technology. "They probably want to graduate and get on with their lives, and so this is our one chance beyond a post-graduation letter or e-mail to say, 'Think of yourselves as alumni. There are benefits for you to be engaged.' "

Alumni portals are not new. But rather than separate sites where alumni can go to update their listings in an online directory, alumni relations officers now seek more online services for their constituents and the ability to host it all within the institution's official .edu site, notes Karli Grant, a product manager at Datatel, which offers the ActiveAlumni solution.

While alumni may want to be engaged, they are also inundated by cell phone messages and e-mails from countless sources. Administrators should tread carefully in how, and how often, they use online tools to connect with graduates. Targeted e-mails-such as to members of the Class of 2000 who support athletic programs-help prevent e-mail inboxes from overflowing with news and donation requests.

RSS feeds, podcasts, and rich media presentations can also provide high-impact means of attracting attention in an overstimulated world. For example, the Anderson School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles has used Sonic Foundry's Mediasite to offer online access to alumni-only events. The business school invited former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden to campus, then made his speech available to alumni via a rich media presentation on Mediasite.

RSS is another promising area. When alumni relations first went electronic, many schools put their class notes online. Now, says Waugh of Convio, many alumni want class notes supplied to them through webfeeds. "Ultimately," says Waugh, "they'll be able to go in and say 'I want you to push notes to me for this year, or this major for this year.'"

That's the type of user preference that administrators will want to follow into the future. Doing so may not be easy, but will pay back in strengthened alumni involvement and even giving levels. "You have to realize that it's very early days here," Waugh observes, "so everybody's trying to figure out how this works."

You might call 2006 the year of the redesign for institutions of higher education. Duke University (N.C.), Brown University, Ball State University (Ind.), Humboldt State University (Calif.), Virginia Tech, and Centenary College (N.J.) are among the group of IHEs who redesigned their sites. Over the past few months, many other new website looks have been announced or unveiled.


Expect some opposition and criticism from staff, faculty, students, alumni, and even donors for changing "their" website.

If you haven't redesigned your site yet, chances are that process will come your way soon. Selected from the suggestions of a few higher ed web professionals behind recent successful website redesigns, the following tips should help in the endeavor.

Don't embark on a website redesign only to keep up with the neighbors. You should expect some vocal students, upset faculty and staff members, angry alumni, and even puzzled donors to criticize, oppose, and fight you for messing with "their" website. That's why you need to come up with quantifiable goals for your redesign. "Clearly define the purpose of the redesign, and put it in writing," advises Andrea Arbogast, web manager at Humboldt. She rolled out a redesign this August. "I have found a short document with the redesign's purpose to be invaluable. There is usually a very concrete reason for taking on a redesign, and being able to articulate it easily has saved me a lot of grief," adds Arbogast.

You wouldn't renovate your house without researching the city code, thinking about the needs of your family, or browsing magazines for inspiration. So, do your homework as well before jumping into a web redesign project. Find out as much as possible about the current state of your website by analyzing web traffic data and feedback from users. Also take the time to learn more about your target audiences' needs and expectations by setting up online surveys, focus groups, face-to-face interviews, or usability tests.

"Before we began any work on site architecture or design concepts, we devoted several months to research," explains Michael Dame, director of Web Communications at Virginia Tech. "We interviewed members of our primary audiences-students, faculty, staff, parents, and alumni-to find out how they use the university's website. Our findings informed later decisions regarding site architecture, navigation, and design."

If you plan to tear down the walls of your website, make sure you rebuild a compliant and functional web presence for your institution. Technologies, standards, and user expectations have changed a lot over the past few years. Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act defines ground rules to assure your website is accessible to disabled users. Make sure your redesign is compliant.

A website redesign is a project and should be managed as such with a defined scope, a given budget, and a defined set of resources. Set up a realistic schedule and manage expectations. Aggressive timelines will force you to cut corners or bypass necessary consultation. "You need at least one person who is a wizard at organizing people, details, and workflow," says Lisa Cameron-Norfleet, program manager of developer relations for the Office of Web Communications at Cornell University, who worked on its 2004 web redesign.

A website redesign is the best time for a content audit. Once you know more about your users' expectations and needs, start to review and reorganize your website content. After auditing your web content, you'll be able to assess the gaps between the current state of your website and the information architecture that will best serve your users.

Any change in the design of your institution's website will get noticed. That's why it's so important to get as much buy-in as you can before and during the process. "Real transparency is key," says Ben Riseling, web operations manager at Duke. "Was this audience group consulted?" is the question that he heard repeated the most.

While communication and buy-in are critical to the success of these projects, redesigns by democracy or by committee should be avoided. They don't work most of the time. "Our redesign blog was a crucial tool in showing our audience what was in the works and establishing a conversation about the new site. You have to be careful to set the tone of such a blog, though. We made sure it was very clear that we would listen to all ideas, but that the site was not being built by a democracy," says Cameron-Norfleet.

Make sure that the new design works by having a few members of your target audiences test your ideas and layouts as soon as possible. Test your paper or interactive wireframes (the documents showing the information skeleton of your pages) before picking the fonts or the photos. Try to launch your redesigned home page in private or public beta first. "About six weeks before launch, we posted a 'sneak preview' section on the university's website to inform and solicit feedback. And, a month before launch, we opened up the staging site to all faculty, staff, and students for testing and further feedback," says Dame.

If you plan to fix your website information architecture, navigation, design, and content, you might want to kill two birds with one stone and couple your redesign with the implementation of a web content management system. "Getting a site on a good CMS makes it easier to maintain and also enables it to seamlessly syndicate content," says Riseling. Beyond the power of syndicated content, a good CMS will make your next redesign implementation a breeze by separating content from design. Next time around, you will be able to focus only on redesigning the templates used by the application to produce on the fly the thousand of pages composing your website.

When it comes to redesign, bigger isn't always better. Major overhauls often generate a lot of resistance from constituents and can even upset your most fervent users. That's why some major names on the web, such as Amazon and eBay, don't redesign their websites anymore. They prefer to roll out any major changes slowly. Small changes prevent these companies from disorienting or losing their customers. Another benefit of the incremental approach lies in the eyes of your budget holder: Most of the time, small changes can be implemented quickly by your team and cost less.

If you're looking for more tips, you can read all the information and advice gathered in preparation for this column at www.collegewebeditor.com/redesign.

When trustees for the University of Louisville (Ky.) voted in July to make it the state's first public university to extend health-insurance benefits to unmarried domestic partners, including gays and lesbians, they no doubt believed they were doing a noble thing. After all, at least 300 higher education institutions currently offer health benefits for domestic partners. At the time Louisville President James Ramsey praised the trustees on their action. "That probably wasn't an easy vote for some trustees," he said, noting that extending benefits was "the right thing to do."

The University of Kentucky has also supported the idea of domestic partner benefits and expects to decide on a course of action early next year. In both cases the proposals were largely seen in a practical light, allowing the schools to offer competitive benefits packages that could help recruit and keep the best employees.

Not everyone, however, sees it that way. State Rep. Stan Lee (R-District 45) introduced a bill last month to stop the move. Lee's bill would prohibit any post-secondary institution from providing benefits to unmarried couples-whether they are of the same sex or the opposite sex.

By his reasoning, Kentucky voters rejected the idea of domestic partner benefits when they passed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

A similar fight is under way at Michigan State University, where opponents say the school violates a state constitutional amendment by offering benefits. The 2004 amendment defined marriage "or any similar union for any purpose" as the union of a man and a woman, but at least seven other Michigan institutions currently provide benefits to same-sex couples.

And in Wisconsin, where the University of Wisconsin System has been seeking domestic partner benefits, voters approved a constitutional amendment last month that not only defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but also bars the state from granting legal status similar to marriage to unmarried individuals. Despite that, the UW System Board of Regents will likely ask lawmakers to provide domestic partner benefits for its workers. UW-Madison is the only Big 10 university that currently does not offer the benefits.

In all three cases, although the legality of the benefits programs has been challenged, few expect the schools to discontinue the packages, especially since similar benefits are becoming more common in the corporate world. Christine Gilgor, executive director of the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, believes the anti-benefits groups don't have the support to carry through on their challenge.

-Tim Goral

SOUND BITE

 

I  wonder what role Harry Potter may have played in this.

 

-John Bruss, of SewaneeUniversity (Tenn.), on the rise in Greek and Latin language studies.  

 

For unprepared parents, a college's sticker shock can be pretty brutal. But "when it comes to paying for college, the good news is that you have 18 years to plan, there are tax-advantaged solutions, and you don't have to go it alone," says Jennifer DeLong, director of College Savings Plans at AllianceBernstein Investments. Unfortunately, she says, "most parents are about as prepared to meet college costs as freshmen are to do their own laundry."

A study conducted by Mathew Greenwald & Associates, Inc. for AllianceBernstein found a huge disconnect between the real cost of college and how much parents think it costs.

On average, surveyed parents with children ages 14-to-17 say they plan to have $12,000 saved when their child reaches college age. Considering that the projected cost of a 17-year-old's college education can be in the tens of thousands for a public IHE and even higher for a private IHE, that $12,000 won't go very far.

Part of the confusion stems from parents' expectations that colleges will help cover costs by offering scholarships, grants, and financial aid. Eighty-seven percent of parents are counting on their children to receive scholarship or grant money and more than two-thirds believe colleges will offer reasonably affordable financial aid. But the reality is that scholarship and grant dollars are less available now than in the past.

Sixty-seven percent also believe their children will graduate with debt and 63 percent view debt as a "part of life." Despite good intentions, many are clueless about the real cost of college. Instead of saving appropriately, the study found they tend to spend unwisely, depend on debt, and have unrealistic expectations of the financial aid process.

-Alana Klein

The MIT Press, 2006; 272pp.; $27.95; www.mitpress.mit.edu

It is hard to be a pioneer, but when the environment is going to hell in an SUV cup holder, the hassle is worth it. That is one of the lessons David Orr learned while trying to build the Adam Joseph Lewis Center at Oberlin College (Ohio), the first substantially green building on a college campus.

The Lewis Center is green with a capital G, including everything from solar arrays to produce energy, to a wastewater reclamation system called "Living Machine" that utilizes wetlands plants, to regionally appropriate landscaping. Orr includes enough information in his book about the planning and design process, as well as the political intrigue encountered, to be interesting and provide useful information, but not enough to bog the story down. The project is shown, warts and all, as when Orr presents a variety of reasons the building isn't as energy efficient as it should be. Along the way he talks of bureaucratic foot-dragging demoralization of the design team, and design mistakes that hampered the mechanical systems. He also includes a history of Ecological Design, and meditations on mankind's relationship to buildings and the process of institutional change.

With sustainability currently in vogue, current projects shouldn't find the same resistance Orr encountered, but the book would be a resource on what to include and pitfalls to avoid on other projects.

-Ann McClure

The term "study abroad" usually brings to mind images of European cities, not the ski resorts in Utah, but Westminster College is changing that with its three-year-old Winter at Westminster program. For an extra $2,995 above normal tuition and fees, students receive a season pass to two resorts and specially arranged winter recreation activities, ranging from backcountry skiing and yurt camping to bobsledding at the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Dedicated advisors ensure the students' schedules are arranged so they can make the most use of their season passes, and that their course credits will transfer back to their home institutions.

"The program is much more than just a season pass," explains Sarah West, director of Winter at Westminster. Students of any major can attend, and they take a full course load of standard classes, so graduation isn't delayed. Students can also do internships; this opportunity led to one alumni being hired by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. Westminster is onto something. Although only 15 students have participated to date, more than 1,000 inquiries have been received this year, so enrollment will be capped at 40 students. -A.M.

SOUND BITE

They don't need to feel defensive.

-U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, in reference to higher ed's reaction to the proposed accountability database, charges of high tuition prices, inaccessibility, and other points made in the report issued by the U.S. Commission on the Future of Higher Education.

 

Just before they were about to be tried for murder, two former roommates from Seton Hall University (N.J.) pleaded guilty to starting a deadly dorm fire nearly seven years ago which killed three students. Joseph LePore and Sean Ryan have confessed to setting fire to a banner in a lounge in celebration of a basketball victory.

Investigators determined early on that the fire was caused by arson, but LePore and Ryan weren't charged with the crime until 2003. The two denied their involvement for years. Further, the defense team claimed the university didn't have appropriate prevention systems in place at the time of the fire. Not true, insists Thomas White, the assistant VP for public relations and marketing. SHU's dormitories complied with fire safety codes at the time of the blaze, he told the media. In exchange for their plea, LePore and Ryan will each spend five years in jail, as opposed to the 30-year sentences they were facing had they been convicted of murder. -Jean Marie Angelo

In recent months a rash of institutions announced capital campaigns with multibillion dollar goals. Which makes one wonder, is there that much money in the world? John Lippincott, president of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, says there is. According to a study by Boston College professor Paul G. Schervish, during the first half of this century baby boomers will probably inherit between $41 trillion and $136 trillion. Since 1980 annual giving to higher education has doubled every year. Lippincott predicts that if that trend continues, "we could see [total giving] close to $100 billion by 2020." And that won't be because of the dozen multibillion-dollar campaigns alone; thousands of smaller campaigns are also being conducted, but overlooked by the media. Lippincott says most IHEs with an established fundraising team are either currently conducting a campaign, finishing one up, or planning a new one.

What happens to all that money? Cornell University plans to use its $4 billion for student aid, recruiting and retaining faculty, and improving infrastructure. Columbia, Stanford and the University of Virginia have similar goals, with K-12 education thrown in for good measure, while Yale is also going to spend some on the arts.

CASE suggests campaigns not exceed seven years, but that institutions not make it too short either; to raise $1 billion in one year would take bringing in $2,739,726.03 per day. Let's put these staggering numbers into perspective. Aside from state-of-the-art research labs, what will those eye-popping amounts get you?

With $1 billion you could buy 3.3 fast food hamburgers for every person in the country, based on a U.S. population of 300,177,750.

With $1 billion you could buy four Boeing 777-300ER airplanes, or 5,041 of the 2006?Lamborghini?Gallardo?SEs.

With $1 billion you could buy 5,000 tickets to become an astronaut on Virgin Galactic at $200,000 each.

With $1 billion you could buy 12,820 Lexus LS 07 cars, which park themselves.

Looking at it another way, it cost $1.7 billion to build the Space Shuttle Endeavour. The Hubble Space Telescope initially cost $1.5 billion to build and launch. A $900 million stack of $1 bills would be 20 feet tall, 50 feet long, and 31.25 feet wide, or about half as long as a conventional tennis court (www.crunchweb.net/87billion). -A.M.

Don't ask President Patricia McGuire of Trinity

Washington University (D.C.) about U.S. News & World Reports' college rankings. Not unless you want to hear charges that it's just a "beauty contest" and an admission that surveys sent to her get "ripped up" when they arrive.

"I am referring to the portion of the survey that asks [presidents] to rate [one to five] the institutions in your area," she told a recent panel on the subject of rankings. "It has no integrity."

There was no need for panel moderator Paul Glastris, editor-in-chief of The Washington Monthly, to urge frankness among the seven panelists brought together by Education Sector, a nonprofit organization, in October to discuss the new research report, "College Rankings Reformed," which was broadcast on C-Span. As soon as McGuire, leader of a small liberal arts religious college in the nation's capital, interrupted the preliminary softball questions with her statement, "I don't mean to be out of order" before launching into her objections to the popular rankings, it was clear this C-Span broadcast was going to have some drama. One target was Charles Miller, also a panelist, and chairman of the federal Commission on the Future of Higher Education.

Suffice to say that McGuire wasn't buying Miller and U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings's argument that there is not enough comparable data in higher education, something they say will be remedied with a national database. TWU has plenty of outcome data, said McGuire, who views providing it as an ethical obligation to the lower-income students she serves. Other schools, like Alverno College (Wis.)-a small IHE often cited as a model in higher ed-do too. Problem is, no one is paying attention to them because all the focus is on Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, she complained.

"Mr. Miller is a financial expert, not an expert in student learning," she charged gingerly. "Many administrators have devoted their lives to education. The bashing of college and university administrators is part of what is wrong with this discussion."

Miller's retort: "I'm not bashing anyone, but the system is dysfunctional." Hear the discussion at www.educationsector.org/events. -J.M.A.

As the pundits continue to analyze what the post-election results mean for education, one outcome clearly has a direct impact. Michigan voters passed Proposal 2, a ballot issue that would ban affirmative action. The proposal, which was passed by a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent, culminates three years of contentious debate in the state after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that the University of Michigan's law school could consider race a factor in admissions. (The court ruled, though, that the undergraduate admissions practices had to be altered when regarding race.)

Ward Connerly, a former regent at the University of California, spurred on the fight against affirmative action in Michigan, as he has done in the states of California and Washington. Proposal 2 says that race and gender cannot be considered factors in admissions practices.

Jennifer Gratz, who led the recent ballot drive in Michigan, was clearly pleased with the outcome. She is one of the two women law students who sued the University of Michigan after her application was declined in 1997.

UMich President Mary Sue Coleman retorted two days after the November 7 elections that the university will legally challenge the outcome of the elections. "I am deeply disappointed that the voters of our state have rejected affirmative action. ...We will not be deterred in the all-important work of creating a diverse, welcoming campus." -J.M.A.

The college affordability crisis has inspired a new movement of student activism. Outraged by soaring college costs, a rise in loan interest rates, and cuts to federal college aid programs, students have taken it upon themselves to advocate for change. The young voter turnout on November 7's midterm elections attests to this. More than two million 18-to-29 year-old Americans voted this year than in the 2002 elections, according to early exit poll analyses."A new generation of voters has arrived as a force in politics," says Heather Smith, director of Young Voter Strategies (www.youngvoterstrategies.com).

"Today's young adults proved that they're a critical voting bloc for both political parties to court-at 42 million strong, this generation will only grow in importance as more and more vote in each election." Many national and student-run organizations helped mobilize student voters in the months before the elections. Some of these include The Campaign for America's Future, the United States Student Association, Young Voter Strategies, Campus Progress, USAction, and The American Democracy Project.

Grassroots efforts took place at the University of Colorado at Denver, which staged "a party at the polls" featuring local bands in front of a campus polling station. At College of the Holy Cross (Mass.),x Republican and Democratic students teamed up to organize an absentee voter drive to increase the number of voters. -A.K.

A growing number of college and university endowment investment portfolios include hedge funds these days. So it helps for institutional leaders to have at least some knowledge of them. University Business contributing writer Ann C. Logue, who wrote the November 2005 article "Hedging Your Endowment Bets," is author of the new book Hedge Funds for Dummies (Wiley Publishing). Besides providing general information about the basics of hedge funds and setting up investment strategies, the book includes some explanation of endowments and the fiduciary responsibilities of endowment managers who invest in hedge funds. Unfarallon, the Yale student and faculty group formed to protest the institution's investment in hedge funds, also gets mention here. For more information, visit www.dummies.com. -Melissa Ezarik

SOUND BITE

It appears to be an open secret.

- Don Joe, an attorney and activist who runs Asian-American Politics, an internet site, on the claim that qualified Asian students are being rejected by Princeton and other elite universities.

An ever-growing number of colleges and universities are putting special emphasis on environmental concerns such as global warming, water conservation, and finding alternatives to fossil fuels. Sustainability is a field that has been identified as one of the "future jobs" which will require specially trained individuals to tackle the complex problems facing our planet. Toward that end, Arizona State University has launched a universitywide effort to educate these future environmental protectors with the establishment the world's first School of Sustainability.

Located in Arizona's Sonoran Desert, the School of Sustainability encompasses such diverse fields as science, technology, public policy, economics, education, and urban planning. The school has the advantage of using Phoenix as a kind of living laboratory because a recent population boom threatens the area's environmental balance.

"Phoenix has doubled its population in the last 20 years to become the fifth-largest city in the United States. Our population-and our urban infrastructure-will double again in the next 20 years," says ASU President Michael Crow. "Because this is the region doing so much building, we are the ones who have to figure out how to do it properly, and ASU has committed itself to being at the forefront of that effort."

The School of Sustainability will begin enrolling students next month, and will offer bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in sustainability. The innovative curriculum builds upon an existing base at ASU that includes 300 courses, 80 degree programs, and 170 research projects that involve sustainability. -T.G.

Traditional-age students taking classes on campus are hardly the only ones interacting with faculty, having enriching educational experiences, and engaging in reflective learning.

When it comes to sustainability efforts on a campus, having a vision is certainly a must. But it's the campus community that makes it all happen.

If we build it, will they come? That was the $16 million question Temple University (Pa.) executives, administrators, and trustees pondered before they gave the go-ahead to construct the largest student computer center in the country.

"It wasn't a slam dunk," recalls Timothy O'Rourke, vice president of Computer and Information Services at Temple, a public research university. "Nobody was going in this direction. The trend has been to equip students with laptops and wireless connections. I would get questions from faculty and the trustees on the order of 'Why would you do this?'"

However, after rounds of discussions and presentations to the Board of Trustees, the consensus moved to, "Why not do it?"

Construction started in March 2005. "We didn't go into this blind," O'Rourke says. "We did student surveys and found that only about 5 percent of students carried laptops to school, so we did believe there was a need for such a facility."


Students-both campus residents and commuters-did not want to bring their laptops to class.

Still, O'Rourke remembers his angst up until the day the TECH (Teaching, Education, Collaboration, Help) Center opened its doors on January 6. "I feared no one would come," he recalls.

But they did come-in droves. During the 2006 spring semester, the center recorded more than 432,000 visits from 20,000 individuals. The busiest day occurred on April 26 when 8,000 people entered the center. This fall semester, the daily attendance is expected to average 6,000 visits per day.

"The numbers have blown us away," O'Rourke remarks. "The traffic has far exceeded anything we could have imagined. It has been a tremendous success."

The 75,000-square-foot TECH Center sits in the heart of Temple's main campus in North Philadelphia, which serves 25,000 students. The building, which once served as a mainframe center for Bell Atlantic, met the needs for conversion because of its footprint and location.

The two-story facility also houses Temple's new 4,200-square-foot Welcome Center on the first floor, which tacked on another $1 million to the project (see "The Wow Factor," p. 46). The first floor also consists of various breakout rooms where students can collaborate on projects. Equipment includes flat-panel wall displays and desks with computers set up for group interaction. In addition, the campus Help Desk is located here, offering 24-hour support for the entire campus community. A Teaching and Learning Center offers training and technology support for faculty and teaching assistants, coupled with a faculty breakout room and lounge. Finally, the first floor houses the WHIP internet radio station (staffed by students) and, of course, a Starbucks cafe that's open 24 hours a day Monday through Thursday, with limited hours on weekends.

The second floor consists of an information desk staffed by a librarian to assist students, an internet lounge, and a service desk where students can go for support, reserve breakout rooms, and rent loaner laptops. There is a section solely for print operations consisting of high-speed laser printers, color printers, and plotters.

General computer areas are subdivided by different color schemes, each housing PCs and Macs, print stations, and popular software programs. In addition, the center offers free music and cable TV feeds. Various specialty labs house computers, special applications, and ancillary equipment. A video editing lab, a music lab with keyboards, a graphics/CAD lab, and a language lab round out the second floor's technology offerings. Moreover, there are two quiet rooms, as well as various breakout rooms reserved for collaborative work. Each room contains a flat-panel wall display and desks set up for group/computer interaction. Some labs are equipped for multimedia presentations, with surround sound and large screens.

Finally, various couches, coffee tables, and cozy chairs are scattered throughout the floor, so students can read, use a laptop (the building is wireless), or even nap between classes.

Even the sole vending machine is unique. Rather than containing the basic student food staples-snacks, candy, and gum-this machine dispenses memory sticks, ear buds, pens, paper clips, batteries, and, of course, Excedrin and NoDoz for those late-night term paper deadlines.

A side note: Food and beverages are allowed in the Internet Zone area, and beverages (with lids) are allowed in the computer areas. "We haven't had any problems with spillage on keyboards, and no stains on the carpet," says David Matthews, a lab manager. He attributes the success of the beverage policy to the large work stations and adequate spacing between stations that give students more room for the business at hand and less opportunity to knock over drinks.

According to Clarence Armbrister, senior vice president of the university, the idea of a large computer facility was born from various discussions throughout the university examining what the university needed to do to equip students for the 21st century.

"The TECH Center is the outgrowth of forward thinking from Tim O'Rourke,"Armbrister says. "When we initially went to the trustees with the idea, we were questioned if the university really needed the facility-considering the investment and the changing pace of technology. We went back and I got together with the academic side of the house and Tim examined the technology side, and we finally came back with a plan that encompassed what we thought would be a facility for 21st-century teaching, collaboration, and technology. And that's how the TECH-Teaching, Education, Collaboration, and Help-acronym came about."

Armbrister notes that other factors contributed to the idea of the center, including the knowledge that students-both campus residents and commuters-did not want to bring their laptops to class. Also, because students can't afford specialty software, the university wanted to give them access to high-end applications. And since previous computer labs were dispersed throughout the campus, consolidating the labs into one facility opened up those labs for additional classroom space.

Armbrister adds, "We also realized that students change majors all the time, and technology and applications cross over various disciplines, so now all students have access to all applications."

Tom Halligan is the former editor in chief of University Business and an alumnus of Temple University.

What does it mean to be recognized as a "college with a conscience"?

The phrase denotes an institution with "an administration committed to social responsibility and a student body actively engaged in serving society," says Robert Franek of The Princeton Review. "Education at these schools isn't only about private gain; it's about the public good."

At Pitzer College (Calif.), one of The Claremont Colleges, the label is a validation of the ideals and principles followed by President Laura Skandera Trombley, her staff, and her students. "Our students really try and practice what it means to be socially responsible on a daily basis," she says. "But the faculty, in their curriculum and in our various centers, really use that as an important academic component in what they do."

Pitzer prides itself on linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility, and community connectivity, a trait that even carries over to the school's alumni.


"Are we there yet? No, there are always things that you want to strive for that will make the institution stronger."

Skandera Trombley says the school received a generous monetary gift from alumni and parents last year, with a condition that most presidents could only hope for. "The funds came with the expectation that the college would know how to use this money in the appropriate way," she recalls.

A week after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast region, a first-year student told Skandera Trombley he wanted to assemble a group of Pitzer students to spend their fall break helping people in the affected areas, but he needed financial support. Because of the gift, the school was able to provide financial support to send the students to help with rebuilding efforts.

"This is why our community is so strong," Skandera Trombley says. "I have funding that's come from people who have a great deal of trust in our institutional integrity."

Skandera Trombley is known for her close connection to students and faculty at Pitzer, sharing regular meals with them in the cafeteria. "I consider myself at heart always a faculty member. I just have enormous respect for faculty, and I find our students to be incredibly inspiring, and really interesting, intelligent young people."

It's no secret that college presidents lead demanding lives, and it's certainly not uncommon for a president to get home at 10 or 11 p.m., after a day of meetings and events that began at 5:30 a.m. Skandera Trombley tries to make the most of her day, whether it is at Pitzer or on the road on a fundraising trip or speaking engagement.

"I absolutely pack in as much as I can, so what for most people might be a three- or four-day trip, I do in two," she says. "I don't want one minute where I'm not meeting somebody or engaged in business. I try and maximize my efficiency away from home, so I can maximize the time that I'm at home."

For her it's not a question of balance but of priorities-first of which is her family. She and her husband, artist Nelson Trombley, have a 10-year-old son, named for his father but known to all as Sparkey.

"Fortunately, Pitzer is an institution that appreciates working mothers, so I don't have to try and fit into an environment that would not be as accepting. My family is very much integrated into the life of the college, so in some ways there's a kind of seamlessness that exists at present."

With more college and university presidents assuming the role at a younger age, Skandera Trombley says the work-family issue is one that they need to be very vocal about. "You need to remain a human being and a family person," she says. "I've worked for two presidents and I've seen the toll that the position can take on them. I've seen how families can sometimes be pushed to the margin, but that's not something that I want in my life."

Between official duties and family life, most people would have a full day, but Skandera Trombley says she has a lot of energy, and "between the hours of 5 and 6 in the morning, and 10 and 11 at night" she can usually be found working on her other passion: the life of Mark Twain. She's nearly completed her third book on the author, and says the information she has uncovered is so compelling that it keeps her trudging back to the desk at 5 a.m. "I wouldn't recommend writing a biography this way, but it's the only way I can squeeze it in," she says.

Over the years, Skandera Trombley has become a leading Twain scholar, even appearing as a commentator in Ken Burns' 2002 documentary on the author. "I had all the sad parts," she jokes. "Whenever somebody died, I was on screen talking about it."

Her fascination with Twain began while she was at the University of Southern California, working toward her Ph.D. "I had fully intended to do my dissertation on the neo-platonic progression of William Wordsworth's The Prelude," she says, but a chance discovery set her on a very different path.

A professor asked her to check out a report that someone had a hundred letters supposedly written by Samuel Clemens. She traveled to Sacramento to meet with a philatelist who purchased the letters from a dealer for $50, hoping the stamps would be of value.

"The stamps were worthless and he was going to throw the letters away," Skandera Trombley says. "But his wife started to read them and said, 'I don't know who this guy is but he's funny. He tells a good story.'"

It wasn't long before they connected "S.L. Clemens" the letter writer to Mark Twain. What Skandera Trombley saw was a perspective on Clemens's life largely ignored by other biographers.

"These letters were written primarily to his daughters," she says. "I didn't even know he had daughters. I had this kind of classic American, solitary man image-for no particular reason other than that is what popular culture had given me. And here is Twain writing to his daughters saying, 'This is my best anecdote and I'm sending it to you because I know you won't lose it.' He was really treating them as intellectual equals." To date, Skandera Trombley is the only person to have read the entire collection of letters.

Intrigued by the find, she read through existing Twain biographies, and found them lacking in what she believes was a key ingredient in what shaped him as a writer and person.

"The daughters weren't really mentioned, they were just seen as totally extraneous. And when his wife was mentioned, it was either as a nullity or as someone who actually had a detrimental effect on his career," she says. "That seemed kind of odd considering that at the time Twain was the most famous man in the world. I thought this popular view doesn't really reconcile with the primary documents."

Her research showed that his wife, Olivia, who came from a well-educated, independent, and iconoclastic family, shaped many of Twain's political beliefs. "My argument is you wouldn't have The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn without his association with this very social reform-minded family."

Dropping Wordsworth, Skandera Trombley wrote her dissertation instead on Twain and the women in his life, culminating in the 1994 book Mark Twain in the Company of Women.

Her latest book focuses on Isabel Lyon, the controversial secretary that worked for Clemens in the last years of his life, and kept copious notes on everything he did. "A lot of questions about Twain's supposed melancholy and bitterness near the end of his life can be answered as a result of what this woman reveals."

That Skandera Trombley had recognized the influence of women in Twain's life isn't surprising, considering her own upbringing.

"In many ways, my principle guide was the example set by my parents," she says. "My mother was an elementary school principal in Los Angeles at a time when there was just one other woman in her district. My father elected to stay in the classroom; he spent 30 years as a second-grade teacher. So seeing a woman in a position of leadership was normal, and I thought the rest of the world worked that way. It wasn't until I grew up that I learned differently."

Today, she seeks counsel and guidance from fellow presidents and administrators she has known for many years. "I'm very fortunate to have people that I can trust to be honest with me and tell me when I'm doing something wrong," she says. "I also work with a top group of administrators here at Pitzer who have been in place since I arrived. We work together in a very cooperative fashion and we trust each other and seek each other's advice."

One piece of advice they shared with her was about handling the stresses of the job.

"The one thing you learn when you become a college president is how much you worry about everything: What's the stock market going to do? What are my students going to do Friday night?" she says. "You have to learn how to manage that stress and be more comfortable with it; otherwise you can have real difficulties working in this environment. My worries are not atypical, but when I walk in the door at the end of the day, I'm home and I try to leave work where it needs to be."

Skandera Trombley initiated Pitzer's first strategic planning process when she took office in 2002, and is pleased with the progress that has been made. Applications to the school have increased by 50 percent and annual giving has increased by 20 percent. The school also achieved a record 18 Fulbright Fellowships for the 2006-07 academic year.

Several building projects are under way, designed to enhance the community and reinforce Pitzer culture and identity. One of those projects, to be completed by the spring, is the Residential Life Project being constructed in the northeast part of the campus. The RLP will include student living space, visiting faculty apartments, art and music galleries, a writing center, and the school's admissions office. It will also be the first building of its kind to achieve Gold LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

"We are going to demonstrate to the world of higher education that you can build socially responsible, LEED-certified residence halls for students, and they will be beautiful, they will be affordable, and they will be educational," Skandera Trombley says. "For our institution, which really tries to practice sustainability, it is a huge deal. And it has not proven to be of huge additional cost. There are ways that you can build green that are quite affordable."

She notes with pride that effecting positive change is not easy, and often takes much longer. "Are we there yet? No, there are always things that you want to strive for that will make the institution stronger and allow us to afford an even better educational environment institution for our students," Skandera Trombley says. "I think we've done a great amount of work in a very short period of time. But that success only comes when everyone is working together and wants to move ahead."

Pages