Kansas Alumni begins a new era

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This is often the place where I describe the stories in this issue of the magazine, but this time I’m eager to preview coming attractions beyond these pages: Kansas Alumni, for 117 years the chronicler of KU’s proud achievements, people and places, as well as the painful episodes and challenges, now will share more KU stories with more Jayhawks through an easy-to-find presence on the Association’s website. 

No longer will the latest issue of the magazine languish at the bottom of our home page, seen only by the most motivated of website visitors. No longer will we offer only a single feature story for those who are not Association members, or require members to register on the site and log in to read the entire issue. 

By Aug. 1, we will launch a new, more prominent digital Kansas Alumni, available at kansasalumnimagazine.org, or by clicking a handy link at the top of our home page, kualumni.org. All alumni will receive emails highlighting the latest magazine, and all of the 31,000 alumni who have downloaded our mobile app (kualumni.org/app) will receive similar notifications to open the latest issue online without registering as members. 

The digital Kansas Alumni also will showcase more videos that complement magazine coverage or stand alone as stories as well as breaking news and special features, which in recent years have appeared on the Association’s blog. We also will include the best stories from many of our University partners: the schools, departments and units that help fufill KU’s mission of teaching, discovery and service. The new site will provide a central resource for all Jayhawks and a vital outlet for more of the countless stories generated throughout the University. One of the delights—and challenges—of covering KU is the fact that we never run out of stories to tell; this new digital presence will enable us to feature more alumni, students, faculty, KU discoveries and pivotal issues, events and programs. 

In addition, for the first time, the Kansas Alumni digital archive, including searchable back issues since 1992, will be online—providing a much-requested service for those who want to recapture and share favorite stories or browse our coverage of certain topics and traditions. This magazine provides an essential historical record of the University that should be widely available. 

 We will continue to publish Kansas Alumni in print, but beginning in February 2020, Association members will receive print editions quarterly instead of bimonthly. Since 1902, when the Association first published The Graduate Magazine, this periodical has changed frequency and format several times—the latest in 1991, when Kansas Alumni morphed from seven black-and-white tabloids and one magazine yearly to six magazines, which have grown from 48 to 72 or more pages.

After considerable research and planning, we make these changes to adapt to the new communications era and, most important, to respond to the needs of the alumni and the University we serve. We’re also mindful of the fact that readers remain loyal to Kansas Alumni even amid the explosion of digital and print options for KU news, and we are immensely grateful. In our summer 2018 survey, alumni continued to rank Kansas Alumni, along with the Association’s emails of news and events, highest in importance and effectiveness (“Survey says,” Association, issue No. 6, 2018). But while alumni of all ages prefer to read the magazine in print, all Jayhawks, especially younger alumni, also favor a combination of print and digital formats. 

The 2018 results also confirmed earlier surveys, in which alumni clamored for expanded career services. In response, the Association last fall launched the Jayhawk Career Network. To help more students connect with alumni as they prepare for their careers, the Association and KU Endowment since 2017 have partnered to provide four-year Student Alumni Network memberships to all undergraduates. We believe these investments ultimately will strengthen KU—the Association’s founding purpose in 1883 and its mission today. 

We’ve long debated the question of whether the digital Kansas Alumni should be available to the larger KU family. In addition to our research, a 2016 exchange with an alumna was pivotal. After receiving an appeal to become an Association member, she wrote us in frustration, asking, “Why would I join an organization that exists solely to promote sports ball?” She explained that she cared most about other aspects of her alma mater, especially the Spencer Museum of Art. 

Her note happened to arrive just after our cover story on the the Spencer’s renovations (“The Big Reveal,” issue No. 5, 2016), but as a non-member, she had not received the magazine. Because she had received only email messages touting watch parties in her area, she had dismissed the Association as merely a cheerleader for KU “sports ball.” She did not know what she was missing—and the University had missed the opportunity to connect with a loyal Jayhawk. Our 2018 survey confirmed that many non-members shared her misperception.  

Throughout its long history, Kansas Alumni has taken pride in connecting Association members to their alma mater, no matter where they live or how long they’ve been away from the Hill. Through the digital Kansas Alumni, we hope to kindle that same sense of belonging among all Jayhawks—and lift the chorus ever onward.

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