College and University General Interest Magazines: Wellesley College - Bronze Medal

Category 17: College and University General Interest Magazines
Wellesley College, Wellesley

Contact: Alice Hummer, editor, Wellesley College Alumnae Association, 106 Central St., Wellesley, MA 02481, Phone: (781) 283-2341, e-mail:

Objectives of the Magazine: Wellesley College’s mission is “to provide an excellent liberal-arts education for women who will make a difference in the world.” The Wellesley College Alumnae Association (WCAA)—and, by extension, its flagship publication, Wellesley magazine—supports and furthers this mission. The role of the Association and the magazine is “to connect alumnae to each other and to the college.” We strive to create, with every issue, a magazine whose subject matter, writing, photography, and design reflect both Wellesley’s strength as one of the top liberal-arts colleges in the nation and the depth and breadth of the interests and accomplishments of its alumnae. This year, the WCAA has two particular priorities, and these are reflected in the magazine:

  • Strengthening Connections. Through its programming, the alumnae association works to keep alumnae strongly connected to and engaged with the college. It also actively promotes intergenerational, interclass, and interpersonal connections among alumnae. These goals are visible throughout the magazine, but stand out in several major ways: in the “Window on Wellesley” section (which we hope captures the vibrancy and excitement of life at the college), in features about the college, and, finally, in the bulk of our class-notes section.
  • Engaging Diversity. The WCAA, made up of 36,000 women, is an incredibly diverse group—diverse in terms of ethnicity and race, age, geographic location, sexual orientation, and career paths. One of the magazine’s aims is to showcase diversity of all kinds through the topics we cover, the photographs we choose, and the alumnae we profile. We want all alumnae—from the 92-year-old housewife in Georgia to the 23-year-old activist in San Francisco—to find something that interests them in each issue and speaks to them. We are also intent on showing the many different ways women can “make a difference in the world.”

Staffing: We have three full-time employees: the editor and two associate editors. Our part-time design director works off site, but is also an integral part of the editorial team.

Frequency of the Magazine: Quarterly

Average Pages per Issue: 88

Circulation: 34,000

Total Annual Budget: $340,700

Average Cost per Issue/Unit Cost: $85,175/$2.39

Response and/or Results: Ways we have fulfilled our goals and mission, as seen through the WCAA/magazine priorities:

  • Strengthening Connections: Surveys that the college has done show again and again that the single most important source of news about Wellesley for alumnae is the magazine—despite an increase in electronic communications from the college, an online alumnae community, and all kinds of mailings. We know from our active letter-to-the-editor section, myriad phone calls that we get when the magazine is slightly late mailing (“Where is my magazine? I don’t want to miss it.”), and numerous comments that our staff receives at alumnae events that alumnae are engaged with this magazine and are reading it attentively.

    One key indicator of alumnae connection both to the college and to each other is the size of our class-notes section, which continues to be full to overflowing. They average about 30 pages per issue. We have a monumental trimming job every issue to limit the notes to half of the magazine, and many, many pictures of alumnae gatherings are submitted every issue. While some alumni magazines have consciously moved away from a large notes section in order to look more like a news-stand magazine, we have intentionally decided to allow ours to run long. (That decision was reaffirmed through several recent rounds of budget cuts.) We feel that an abundant notes section cultivates the strong bonds alumnae feel toward each other and toward the college.

    The most vivid story about how connections were made through the magazine came through the notes section. Recently, a friend of a ’77 alumna who was in end-stage renal failure wrote to class notes about this alumna’s urgent need for a kidney transplant. “I believed in my heart of hearts that her best hope for finding a living donor would be a Wellesley woman. The class notes seemed to be the best place to start,” wrote the friend. A member of the class of ’78 read the ’77 notes and saw the call for donors. She did not know the alumna well and had not seen her in 25 years, but she stepped forward to be tested for a transplant. She was a match and later donated one of her kidneys to save the life of the ’77 alumna.

    While not all of our “connection” stories are this dramatic, we hear about this kind of thing going on all the time: classmates of a recently deceased alum from the ’30s reaching out to her daughter from a class in the ’70s, alums connecting to their class after a 30-year silence, etc, all made possible through the magazine.

    We were particularly pleased this year that Wellesley’s Office for Admission has chosen to use Wellesley magazine as a recruiting tool. They are reprinting copies of articles to send to prospective students and reusing many of our photographs in their publications. They feel the magazine portrays the College, our graduates, and their life paths and successes particularly well and will help bring students to Wellesley.
  • Engaging Diversity: Through, feature-article topics, book reviews, personal essays, and much more, we have worked hard to appeal to alumnae in different age groups with many different interests and to portray alumnae from all different walks of life. Our features this year include an article and stunning photographs of women in the developing world and a piece about the recovery of the black community in New Orleans, as seen through the eyes of an African-American alumna who is a business leader in the Crescent City. We’ve also written about everything from young alumnae who earn their living as rock musicians, to autism (and Wellesley mothers coping with raising special-needs kids), to do-it-yourself home renovation.

    Class-notes alumnae profiles in these two issues represent a diverse group of alumnae, as well as a wide range of career paths. Notes profiles this year have included a young Pakistani graduate who has started a volunteer service corps in her native country, an Air Force major who works as a JAG (judge advocate), a Latina political activist in Los Angeles, a geologist who works in the Antarctic, a web entrepreneur who launched a series of web sites devoted to lesbian and bisexual women in entertainment, and a former housewife who developed a novel system for teaching reading and who is still involved with her company in her late 70s. Smaller profiles highlight a broad array of achievements.

    Photographs and stories throughout feature the diversity of the student body, faculty, and alumnae body. This is particularly true of our section of college news, Window on Wellesley.