New Web site advances York’s alumni communications

The York Alumni Office connects, celebrates and keeps in touch with the University’s community of more than 235,000 grads. While some of these activities take place face-to-face, at events and meetings in places like Hong Kong, Vancouver, Tel Aviv, New York City and Montreal, much of the work relies heavily on virtual connections, through e-mail and the Web. 

Over the past year, the University Relations team has been considering ways to serve York’s alumni community more effectively, particularly through the Web. Their solutions – including a complete overhaul of the Alumni Web site, streamlining the Alumni Matters e-newsletter and creating a friendlier, brighter and recognizable look – debut this month.

The new Web site offers a more intuitive layout and improved functionality. As well, to meet with new standards outlined in the provincial government’s Accessiblity for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which is being rolled out across Ontario, the Web site has been redesigned to better meet the needs of the visually disabled. Other new additions include a photo gallery, shared with the alumni Facebook page, and a Get Involved section that details volunteer opportunities for grads, like joining one of the University’s mentorship programs or the York University Foundation’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon training team.

Above: The new-look Alumni Web site

Other sections of the site, such as Recent Grads and Chapters, are now more robust. A searchable news archive comes complete with categories like grad profiles and top rated articles (rated by the readers). Perhaps the most exciting part of the Web site is its improved video streaming, which offers visitors an opportunity to watch lectures by scholars and experts who’ve spoken on campus, honorary doctorate acceptance speeches, grad profiles and other interesting footage. The public can sign-up to automatically receive these videos, the news or get event notices through an RSS feed.

“We’re very proud of the new alumni Web site. It broadens the ways in which we’re able to serve our community, such as providing free intellectual content through our videos and bringing news about our grads’ successes and University developments to the forefront,” says Jennifer Sloan, York’s vice-president university relations. 

The Alumni Matters e-newsletter received a makeover with its improved layout. The revamped publication links in a more logical fashion to the main alumni Web site, so that readers can click and successfully find what they’re looking for. “The monthly is the Alumni Office’s best tool for keeping grads informed about York news, upcoming events and exciting Alumni Perks,” says James Allan, senior director of alumni, “so if you’re a grad who works on campus and you don’t receive the newsletter, you should visit the site to sign up.”

Finally, the look of the Alumni Office Web site has been updated to be friendlier, bolder and brighter. “A number of alumni research projects over the past few years identified that grads found the old Alumni Office look – a grid of red, grey and black cubes – somewhat impersonal, institutional and hard to connect with,” says Allan, “so we partnered with Marketing & Communications to develop a new visual identity based on a series of lively orange, blue and red ‘chat bubbles.’” 

“The core idea behind the new look – the chat bubbles – is to highlight the most important part of our business: people. The bubbles represent our grads and their relationships and interactions with one another and with York. We’re inviting them to join the conversation,” explains Sloan, who says they’ve already received very positive feedback about the change from the community. The Alumni Office’s new look was developed in consultation with grads, members of the York University Alumni Association Board and campus partners.

Over the past few years, like many organizations, the Alumni Office has witnessed the migration of its community to social media forums and a growing expectation of video content and share, search and RSS functionality. "The changes the Alumni Office has made to its virtual communications will enable it to better connect with our alumni community," says Allan.

And if your Faculty or department is hosting a lecture that can be filmed and shared on the alumni video page, or if you have volunteer opportunities for grads that you’d like listed on the Get Involved page, contact Elizabeth Teodorini, manager of alumni communications, at ext. 20960.