College and University General Interest Magazines: University of Chicago - Bronze Medal

Category 17: College and University General Interest Magazines
University of Chicago, University of Chicago Magazine

Contact: Mary Ruth Yoe, editor, 5801 S. Ellis Ave., Chicago, IL 60637, Phone: (773) 702-2164, e-mail:

Objectives: In March 1907 The Chicago Alumni Magazine (Volume I, No. 1) appeared with some fanfare, including a statement of purpose that sprang from the University of Chicago’s raison d’être:

The University of Chicago is not only an institution; it is a movement in itself. It represents not merely a gathering together of equipment and faculties, where one may spend a few years in study and then move on and away to other things. Its mission is the lifelong inspiration to effective service, stimulated by the innumerable associations inseparably connected with the “City Gray”—that intangible everything we call the University. The MAGAZINE will find its largest expression as the organ of this undying movement. …

The MAGAZINE aims to record the daily life of the university, to give some expression to its literary activity and to serve as a medium through which the best thought and enthusiasm of us all may be so directed as to result in the greatest glory to our alma mater.

The MAGAZINE started life as a monthly periodical; a century later, the University of Chicago Magazine takes the form of a bimonthly magazine, supplemented by a Web site, monthly UCHICAGO.EDU e-bulletins, and a thrice-weekly Web log, UCHIBLOGO.

Like our predecessors, today’s editors work to inspire our readers to “effective service” by reinforcing the “intangible everything we call the University.” In each issue—including the February/06, June/06, and October/06 issues that comprise this entry—the magazine’s content reflects some key Chicago intangibles:

  • Questioning mindset. Chicago alumni see themselves as critically thinking iconoclasts—a belief fostered by the education they received on campus.

See “Beyond Belief: What happens when religion meets critical thinking in the classroom.” This February/06 cover story started a “Letters” section dialogue that continued through our August/06 issue, when the editor declared an “intelligent-design hiatus” to “allow room for other topics.”

  • Sense of place. The University is on Chicago’s South Side, which shifts as much as the campus itself.

See “Due South: After decades of mistrust and misunderstanding, the university is getting acquainted with Woodlawn.” Or, in the same February/06 issue, see “Eight Gables,” a photo essay about what goes on behind some of the campus’s distinctively Gothic triangular walls.

  • Serious bent. Alumni embrace the institutional motto: Crescat scientia; vita excolatur. Let knowledge grow from more to more; and so be human life enriched.

Topics in our representative issues include biocompatible surfactants, Latino health disparities, medical cost-effectiveness, and library expansion in the information age.

  • Sense of humor. Despite the institution’s serious approach to life and learning, Chicago alumni, like most intelligent people, like to laugh.

In “Lite of the Mind” (a back-page department billed as “A light-hearted look at all things Chicago”), we share an “after-hours” admissions story (February/06), imagine the portrait of a departing president as four masters might have painted it (June/06), and get in touch with the University’s inner phoenix (October/06).

Staff structure:

  • Four full-time staff: editor, managing editor, associate editor, alumni news editor.
  • Freelance art director (designs features, covers).
  • Part-time Webmaster and part-time graphic designer (two weeks per issue); both belong to the development & alumni relations communications team.
  • Undergraduate interns (two, full-time, summer; one, 10 hours per week, academic year).
  • One student office assistant (15 hours per week).

Use of resources: The magazine staff has remained constant at four full-time employees since June 1990. At that point, the staff produced six 48-page issues per year.

Today the four-person staff produces six 78-page print issues; prepares text and art for the online version of each issue; writes and edits a monthly e-bulletin; writes and edits a thrice-weekly blog; runs local and classified advertising programs; and works with the Ivy League Magazine Network on national advertising.

The decision to do more without additional staffing springs from necessity: for 100 years the magazine has been the place where alumni turn for institutional news. To keep and build on that brand, we have expanded to new media.

Audience(s): The magazine mails free of charge to alumni of the undergraduate college, the four graduate divisions (Biological Sciences, Humanities, Physical Sciences, Social Sciences), the six professional schools (Business, Divinity, Law, Medicine, Public Policy, and Social Service Admin¬istration), donors, other friends of the university, and parents of current undergraduates.

Frequency: Six times a year: February, April, June, August, October, and December. (During 2006, we gained a month on our publication schedule to be in sync with other members of the Ivy League Magazine Network: Jan–Feb, Mar–Apr, May–Jun, Jul–Aug, Sep–Oct, and Nov¬–Dec.)

Average pages per issue: 78

Circulation: 133,000

Total annual budget (excluding salaries & postage): $544,643

Average cost per issue & unit cost:
The average cost per issue is $77,334, for a unit cost of 68 cents.

Response & results: The University of Chicago Magazine, in all its formats, gets read—and generates response:

  • Readers spend an average of 48 minutes with each issue. (Source: February 2006 reader survey, conducted by Pulse on America, Inc.)
  • 75 percent of Chicago alumni (including those whose professional schools or divisions also provide a newsletter or magazine) get the majority of their news about the University from the magazine. Second most-named news source: University Web sites. (Source: February 2006 reader survey.)
  • 91 percent of readers report being very or somewhat satisfied with the University of Chicago Magazine—42 percent report similar satisfaction rates with general alumni programming. (Source: February 2006 reader survey.)
  • The magazine’s monthly e-bulletin, UCHICAGO.EDU, sends readers to the online edition ( ), which in 2006 averaged 72,328 distinct visits per month—up seven percent from 2005. Although we have only been using Google Analytics to track visits to our Web log, UChiBLOGo, since mid-August 2006, by December monthly visits were up 118 percent.
  • The magazine’s “Letters” section fills to overflowing: in 2006 we published an average of 18 letters per issue—letters short on nostalgia, long on reasoned reactions to magazine articles and campus news.
  • In calendar year 2006, 3,504 readers contributed $167,912 in “voluntary subscription” support.
  • Reprint requests (for use in course syllabi and in other publications) come in at a rate of four per month; requests to reprint photographs come in weekly. We’re also regularly asked for permission to link to our online stories. A few of this year’s reprint highlights:

Two 2006 cover stories were reprinted in Current magazine: our June/06 article “Grave New World: Catastrophe Experts Plan for the Next Big One” ran in Current’s July-August/06 issue, while our August/06 story “China Rising: How to Chart a Nation’s Ascent” was the lead article in Current’s November/06 issue.

In its January 18, 2007, Web report on an effort have Iran compensate Hamas terrorist victims by selling ancient tablets on loan to Chicago’s Oriental Institute, American Public Media’s Marketplace linked to the Magazine’s October/06 report, “Worth millions…or priceless?”

When our Nov–Dec/06 cover story “Murphy’s Law” (about Chicago economist and MacArthur genius grant winner Kevin Murphy, PhD’86) got a mention on Steven Levitt’s Freakonomics blog, the online version received 9,958 visits in one month.