The York Circle wins gold at national competition

York’s University Relations Division won gold and silver this year at the annual awards ceremony of the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education (CCAE).

Every year since 2003, York has brought home prizes from CCAE’s Prix d’Excellence annual awards program, celebrating best practices in marketing & communications, alumni and fundraising at Canada’s universities and colleges. This year is no exception.

The University Events & Community Relations unit of University Relations won gold for best community outreach initiative for The York Circle and the Marketing & Communications unit won silver for a photo in YorkU magazine.

Here’s a twist: last year The York Circle won silver at CCAE (YFile, May 26, 2010). Why was it a contender again this year?

“We submitted for gold again knowing that The York Circle had grown and become bigger and better,” says Cindy Bettcher, director, University Events & Community Relations. So she and Clay Browne, account director, Marketing & Communications, updated their entry.

Pictures of stuffThe York Circle showcases York’s professors at its annual lecture-and-lunch events and Prestigious Performance series. It is a membership organization that aims to stimulate interest in York among students’ parents, alumni and friends. So far, it has well over 800 members.

What’s different this year? “We’ve incorporated a huge community engagement piece in the way we approach The York Circle,” says Bettcher.

The York Circle hired students and engaged them as volunteers in the office, in planning marketing and promotions, and at events. It partnered with the Creative Arts Student Association, a student club on campus, to promote the Prestigious Performances Series. A fourth-year business class developed a marketing plan that led to a redesigned website and refined strategy for promoting the Prestigious Performances Series and recruiting new members. Local sponsors jumped on board.

“We’ve engaged every part of The York community in the York Circle – governors, faculty, staff, students and their parents, alumni and our neighbours. We’re delighted with the outcome,” says Lorna R. Marsden, president emerita and York Circle coordinator.

CCAE judges gave top marks to The York Circle: Walking the Talk on Community Engagement. They called it a great idea, very innovative and “a great use of York’s intellect and talent.”

“I don’t know if CCAE offers platinum, but we’d go for that, too!” says Bettcher.

York also won silver this year in the best photograph category for Gravy Train, published in YorkU‘s Summer 2010 issue. The photograph portrays alumnus Randy Powell, who left his high-powered CEO job to manage BC’s Rocky Mountaineer tourist train. “He talks about ‘selling fun for a living’ and the photograph captures that sense perfectly – a high-powered exec having fun in his job,” wrote YorkU editor Berton Woodward in his submission. Vancouver photographer Darrell Lecorre took the photo after briefing from the magazine’s art director Jamie Nixon. Since 2003, YorkU magazine has won five CCAE awards for photos art-directed by Nixon.