Publications & Products
Volume 4, Issue 1

A Model Community College Magazine

Community college magazines should have content not just for students and alumni but also for local residents, says the leader of an award-winning publication.

Wider Horizons, the magazine of Lethbridge College in an eponymous small town in Alberta, Canada, recently won the gold award in the community college magazines category in CASE's 2014 Circle of Excellence Awards.

The circulation of Wider Horizons was between 37,000 and 39,000 last year. Not only is the magazine mailed to alumni, but it is also packaged for local delivery three times a year via Lethbridge Living, a bi-monthly lifestyle magazine.

Wider HorizonsCarmen Toth, marketing and communications manager at Lethbridge, says this distribution deal is a strategic decision to make sure the magazine gets into as many hands as possible—including donors, parents of future students and alumni it may not be reaching via its mailing list. In addition, she says that having a broader scope makes it easier to pick and choose stories for the publication. For example, the magazine features a recipe from a chef in the college's culinary program in each issue.

"If it's not a story that John Q. Public would want to read, then we don't run it," says Toth, noting there are a few exceptions.

The Circle of Excellence judges wrote that, "Wider Horizons is an outstanding community college magazine that could serve as a model for others to follow." Still, this award-winning publication—which is produced three times a year and has upward of 56 pages per issue—faced significant challenges in recent years.

Lisa Kozleski, a marketing and communications writer and managing editor of the magazine at Lethbridge, says her department considered reducing publication to twice a year after the provincial government announced postsecondary funding cutbacks in 2013. Instead, she says Toth, her boss, heeded advice Kozleski heard at the CASE Editors Forum: that college magazines should cut pages if they have to, but not cut issues.

"If alumni are used to getting the magazine three times a year, we had to keep it at that," Kozleski says. "It took some guts for my boss to make that case, but the executive leadership team is really happy with the decision."

Amid these budgetary concerns, Kozleski says her team also considered selling ads to offset some of the magazine's printing costs. The college's new president, however, was steadfast against the idea and helped find other ways to support the publication of Wider Horizons without ad revenue.

"The president wanted to keep the magazine focused on alumni and stories and programs," she says. "I feel like that's pretty bold of the college to do that and see value in the magazine. It's a great way to share stories with the community and showcase the campus."

A majority of the magazine is produced in house, using communications and marketing staff. Additional content comes from a freelance photographer and a handful of freelance writers. The magazine is designed by a freelance designer.

Kozleski offered the following advice for those producing community college magazines:

  • Don't forget about design. "People love pictures," she says. "This is hard as I myself love words. But by placing an emphasis on gorgeous photos and good storytelling, I think we have really helped make Wider Horizons into a more compelling magazine."
  • Consider outsourcing some jobs. "Initially, all three graphic designers in marketing and communications would work on the magazine, with each one doing different stories and layouts," she says. "Individually, the layouts were interesting and fun, but the magazine as a whole lacked any kind of cohesive or fluidity. When one of those designers ... left to start his own business, we were swamped and my boss agreed to hire him to design the whole magazine to allow our in-house designers to get caught up. That first issue he did had such a different look—much more cohesive and deliberate and connected, and so we have stayed with him since then.... I think this experience illustrates a few points—first, that one good freelancer can make things work even more efficiently than several in-house designers—but also that good freelancers who really understand your brand and your institution's mission and vision are priceless."
  • Regularly solicit ideas. "Listen to people on your campus," she says. "I manage an internal twice-weekly newsletter, and in it, I ask that people send all their best ideas for stories for Wider Horizons."

This article is from the July 2014 issue of the Community College Advancement News.

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