A new partnership will develop a digital-first alumni publication as part of an information “hub,” bringing the best of Cornell Alumni Magazine, Ezra magazine and much more to Cornell alumni and friends around the world beginning next summer.
Earlier this year, a common desire to better serve the university’s more than 280,000 alumni brought together a group of alumni volunteers, editors and university staff for a fresh examination of Cornell alumni-focused magazines. Born from both the bimonthly independent Cornell Alumni Magazine, known for more than a century by its acronym “CAM,” and the university-produced Ezra magazine, the digital information center for alumni news will launch July 2021.
The new venture allows for maximizing budget and strategically utilizing university resources in order to reach a broad audience in an environmentally-friendly and accessible way. Alumni will also see more diverse storytelling, aligning well with university efforts to promote equity and inclusion.
“We are committed to bringing the best of Cornell’s amazing people, work and programs to our alumni and friends for their personal edification,” said Fred Van Sickle, vice president for Alumni Affairs and Development. “With COVID-19, our output and alumni interest in accessible content have grown considerably and this 'hub' will allow us to meet more people online in new and powerful ways."
Challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic had shifted Ezra to an all-digital format this past spring, which allowed the university to explore options for bringing the publications together online within a faster timeline. This new digital-first format for Ezra has already allowed the publication to be shared with a wider alumni audience, a prospect many are excited about for CAM content, as well.
“By combining Ezra and CAM into a single digital publication inside an alumni communication hub, we could make great content accessible to all alumni,” said Robert Rosenberg ’88, vice-chair of the CAM Committee and convener of the of the Alumni Publication Ad Hoc Committee, which also included representation from the Cornell Association of Class Officers.
“This is a real opportunity to expand our reach,” said Sheryl Tucker ’78, a Cornell trustee emeritus and member of the Alumni Publication Ad Hoc Committee. “The change will help fuel the mission of Cornell’s new alumni outreach strategy, and fulfill a dream of CAM to reach more people.”
Both CAM and Ezra have a celebrated history at Cornell, and both parties are enthusiastic about seeing the spirit of these unique publications continue on the new platform.
“Although I am, of course, sad that Cornell Alumni Magazine is no longer sustainable in its current form,” said Jenny Barnett, editor & publisher of CAM, “I am excited about this new publication hub. It will continue to deliver the compelling and entertaining content—with a reader-focused, journalistic approach—that alumni have come to expect from CAM. And a vibrant digital format will provide the opportunity to engage a much broader audience of Cornellians.”
The alumni “hub,” Tucker said, will be a multi-platform center with a storytelling and alumni news engine at its core, designed to facilitate the university’s engagement with alumni; alumni connecting with the university; and alumni developing a more dynamic community by more easily connecting with each other.
Rosenberg agrees that the new alumni hub will be an interactive experience through which Cornellians the world over will connect. For those who retain a more traditional affinity for the printed page, the plan also calls for a subscription-based print option to ultimately be available, as well.
“That’s definitely the goal,” Rosenberg said, noting that certain functionalities that will be part of the interactive nature of the hub will continue to be added after the digital publication’s July 2021 launch. “We’d like alumni to have the ability to interact directly with each other, and to customize their experience with the hub.”
Part of the vision of this new hub, the name of which is still not determined, will be the idea of “communities” – the popular Class Notes section of CAM will live on in the hub – as well as other gathering places based on sports, Greek life and other affiliations.
“We envision the hub featuring communities,” Rosenberg said, “and allowing alumni to identify topics and areas of interest, so that they get news in these areas pushed to their inboxes when new stories come out.”
While planning remains in its infancy, a few key decisions have already been made. Publication of CAM will continue throughout this academic year, sunsetting following the May/June 2021 issue. Ezra, which also publishes a four-page insert inside CAM and a monthly newsletter, will also cease operations next spring.
Rosenberg and Tucker stressed that while the ambition for a new, more powerful and more universal alumni communication platform is firmly established, the precise scope and character of the launch and later versions of the product are still being developed.
“We have a tremendous opportunity to create a new partnership and a new product for our alumni,” said Joel M. Malina, vice president for University Relations. “I’m thrilled that we can direct the university’s powerful communications assets and deep expertise to this exciting effort.”
Tom Fleischman is the news editor at the Chronicle; Kaitlin Provost is a writer for Alumni Affairs and Development.