Special Interest Magazines: University of Toronto - Gold Medal

Category 18B: Special Interest Magazines
University of Toronto Faculty of Arts and Sciences, idea&s: the arts and science review
Gold Medal Award

Contact: Diana Kuprel, associate director, development communications/editor, Office of Advancement, 100 St. George St., Room 2032, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G3, Canada, Phone: (416) 946-3118, e-mail:

Institution Mission & Objectives of Publication: Ranked Canada’s top research-intensive university, the University of Toronto (U of T) is committed to being a leader among the world’s best public universities in teaching, research, and engagement with our community and society. U of T offers teaching programs in 17 academic divisions located on three campuses and in nine fully affiliated teaching hospitals.

The heart of U of T is the Faculty of Arts and Science. With approximately 23,000 undergraduate and 3,000 graduate students, Arts and Science represents over half the student population on the university’s main downtown campus. Overall, 73 percent of U of T undergraduates and one third of graduates pursue degrees in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, the disciplines housed within the faculty. As the largest academic division in Canada and among the most comprehensive in North America, the faculty’s mission is to play a leading role in education, in advancing research, and in promoting the values of democratic society.

The Office of Advancement for the Faculty of Arts and Science has responsibility for fundraising, alumni and donor relations, media relations, public outreach, and student recruitment. In support of these activities, in the fall of 2004, the faculty launched a new magazine, the first of its kind for the faculty and the university, entitled idea&s: the arts & science review.

Published twice a year, idea&s provides a signal opportunity for the Faculty of Arts and Science to share with a wider readership the wealth of the intellectual, scientific, creative and socially engaged work in which our faculty, students, and alumni are involved. It is a magazine of ideas: ideas that illuminate the contexts in which our scholars produce their work; ideas that influence how people can understand their world. And, as the title signals through the “&” linking the arts, social sciences, and sciences, it is a magazine that situates itself at the interface of communities: it seeks to engage a broad readership with the diversity of ideas that are being generated, discussed and debated within the faculty. In doing so, it seeks to establish and enhance vital connections—with our immediate stakeholders and constituencies, and with the general public who have a stake in the work undertaken at a leading public research institution. In this way, the magazine also communicates the institution’s mission of discovery, innovation, and education, as well as its core values: its commitment to serve as a good civic citizen in promoting the values of democratic society. Thus, our objectives can be expressed as follows:

  • To inform and educate the public about issues of local, national and international import
  • To communicate the institution’s mission and values
  • To engage our local, national and international stakeholders in the work that is being undertaken at this public university
  • To stimulate interest in and provoke deeper reflection on the latest ideas and advances in knowledge
  • To bridge communities (academic with government, general public, cultural, etc.) by establishing new linkages and enhancing established linkages with value-added publication
  • To foster a culture of communication beyond the academy by encouraging our scholars to write for a broad audience
  • To raise the local, national and international profile of the faculty as a world leader in higher education and research through the presentation of work that matters and that reflects institutional excellence

Staffing & Use of Resources: The associate director of development communications is the editor and also oversees circulation and distribution; 30 percent of her time is dedicated to the magazine. An external consultant serves as art director, designer, and production manager. A communications officer serves as publicity coordinator (one percent time). An Editorial Advisory Committee was struck to provide expert advice on all editorial, production and promotional aspects of the magazine (intellectual, creative, and pragmatic). The committee, which meets annually, is composed of the dean of the faculty, the executive director of advancement, director of communications, master of Massey College (leading figure in Canadian media and culture), faculty members representing different disciplines (humanities, social sciences, sciences) and prominent alumni, all of whom are involved in media, publishing, cultural work, and/or politics. Contributors, for the most part, participate on a voluntary basis, as part of their commitment to public education.

Audiences: A public education and outreach vehicle, idea&s is designed to serve multiple audiences who are interested in advances in research and creative practice at the university, as well as in becoming better informed about social and global issues (in the case of the 2007 issues, respectively: environment and global warming; free speech and language issues). The majority of recipients live in the Greater Toronto Area, where most of U of T alumni and other stakeholders reside; it also goes to people and institutions across Canada, the US and around the world (incl. Japan, China, Taiwan, Switzerland, Germany, UK, Poland, UAE, Kenya, Australia, and Brazil).

  • General: public (self-identified subscribers); public libraries (local and national); cultural institutions
  • Stakeholders: donors, prospects, alumni (floating, according to theme of issue; i.e., physics, geology, and geography alumni received the spring issue on the environment; Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations alumni received the fall issue on talk), government funding agencies
  • Opinion leaders: prominent alumni, media, interest groups, policy institutes, think tanks
  • Government: federal, provincial, municipal representatives; select Canadian consulates; Toronto-based foreign consulates
  • External academic: deans of similar faculties across North America; liaison officers of student exchange programs with whom U of T has agreements
  • Internal academic: Senior university administration; Arts & Science faculty and staff; prospective faculty and students

Frequency of magazine: twice per year

Average number of pages: 64 per issue

Circulation: 10,000

Total Annual Budget: US$100,000 (not incl. salary, mail preparation or postage costs)

Average cost per issue and unit cost: US$50,000 per issue; US$5.00 per issue (unit cost)

Response and Results: The opportunity has been to create a unique intellectual/cultural publication that reflects and draws on the strengths of the arts and science community and that inspires a broad spectrum of readers to learn something new and to think about issues more profoundly or from another perspective. As evidenced by numerous letters and calls to the editor, we accomplished these goals. The response from readers to the concept, content, design and production value continues to be overwhelmingly positive. In the last year, 1,000 people—a 100 percent increase over the previous year)—primarily from the Greater Toronto Area, but also from countries as far away as Kenya, Germany, Brazil and Japan, sent in subscription cards or subscribed online. Responses are indicative of the magazine’s impact:

  1. Helped to foster a culture of communication beyond the academy: The magazine has garnered cross-the-board internal support for what is overwhelmingly a volunteer effort on the part of faculty and students. For some, it was their first opportunity to communicate their work to a broader audience. In turn, some departments now use idea&s in their own public education and outreach activities.
  2. Informed, educated, stimulated interest, provoked deeper reflection, delighted: “Stimulating, enlightening, beautiful, smart, exceptionally well-designed, informative, thought-provoking, exciting, high quality journalism, an excellent publication, couldn’t put it down, a great read”—these are some of the descriptors that have appeared in letters to the editor from a wide variety of readers.
  3. Communicated the institution’s mission and values:
    1. The Spring 2006 issue focused on environmental research and global warming, perhaps the most important issue facing society today. U of T and Arts and Science identified advancing research and teaching on the environment as one of the top priorities in the new academic plan. Indeed, the choice of paper and printing method supports this goal: we are one of the few publications to use 100 percent post-consumer waste paper; for the Fall 2006 issue, we moved to a waterless printing process, which further restrains the publication’s environmental footprint. The issue also featured the winners of the Dean’s Essay Prize for best undergraduate and best graduate essay, a competition spearheaded by the idea&s editor; this initiative, which publicly recognizes achievement of excellence in critical writing on the part of our students, speaks to the University’s and Faculty’s commitment to enhancing the student academic experience.
    2. The Fall 2006 issue dealt with free speech and issues around languages. The defense of freedom of speech, academic freedom, and freedom of research is at the core of U of T’s, and hence Arts and Science’s, mandate; the opening piece, which dealt with some of the key issues facing the university and society around free speech, featured scholars affiliated with the Centre for Ethics, which was launched last year. In addition, the University has affiliations with PEN Canada; PEN Canada members who are also Arts and Science alumni and faculty contributed special literary work to this edition. In addition, the Faculty of Arts and Science declared 2006-07 the Year of Languages, in recognition of the foundational role language study plays in research and education; several articles were commissioned from our language experts to address some of the major issues around language and identity.
  4. Engaged stakeholders, established or enhanced connections: A few examples.
    We did a targeted mailing to physics and geography alumni with the Spring issue; many wrote back wishing to receive future issues; the physics development officer said that for the first time many of these people are actively seeking a connection with the university. Development staff are using the magazine as a “calling card” to introduce prospective donors to the Faculty, and the reported response is “they like it.”
  5. Raised the profile of the faculty and the university: The magazine has been used by senior administrators at meetings with research and education partners around the world. The magazine has been promoted at key public events in the Faculty of Arts and Science and important literacy events in the city, which has helped to broaden awareness of the work being done at the faculty. Some readers noted they didn’t realize before the “impressive” quality of work/range of activities done by faculty and students. The magazine has been garnering accolades from industry organizations in advancement, design and media. Also important was the spotlight on several new interdisciplinary units with the Faculty of Arts and Science: Centre for Environment and Centre for Global Climate Change (Spring 2006 issue on environment); Centre for Ethics and School of Public Policy and Governance (Autumn 2007 issue on talk).