Serving compelling content, these alumni magazines are anything but basic.
By Colleen Ringer
Alumni magazines serve a basic, but vital, function — they keep alumni connected to one another and to their alma mater. Meeting this need doesn’t require groundbreaking design or a compelling content strategy. But an alumni publication that serves only the basic need will always be just that: a basic alumni publication.
While there exist many basic alumni publications, there also exist many alumni publications that aim to serve their readership with elevated design and content.
These 10 alumni publications are anything but basic — they’re pack-in-your-bag, afternoon-escape great magazines.
Pine, Northern Arizona University
Background: NAU started as a teacher’s college in a small mountain town in Arizona and has grown to offer numerous degree programs at multiple campuses across the state. Its alumni publication, Pine, combines nostalgic-themed articles with feature stories centered on timely topics.
We love: How the design walks the fine line between fun and sophisticated — community photos, social media shoutouts and feature spreads blend seamlessly throughout the biannual publication.
Takeaway: The best magazines are both fun and thought-provoking. Pine helps foster a sense of community and camaraderie while still offering thoughtful content.
Bostonia, Boston University
Background: As the largest university in Massachusetts, Boston University delivers its Bostonia magazine to countless alumni three times a year. With more than 300 programs of study, Boston University can tackle topics from all angles across the school.
We love: How Bostonia centers its content around a flagship feature and supporting sidebars, like many commercial magazines. Big-picture topics include race relations, student activism, public health and Boston politics.
Takeaway: A strong, timely editorial theme can make your alumni magazine relevant to audiences beyond your alumni.
University of Toronto Magazine, University of Toronto
Background: The University of Toronto was founded in 1927 as the first institution of higher learning in Upper Canada — the British portion of the Canadian territories. Today, the institution teaches more than 60,000 students across 900 areas of study.
We love: The mix of original photography, illustrations and graphics that evokes coffee-table staples like The New Yorker or New York Magazine.
Takeaway: Never underestimate the power of design. Fundraising campaign updates and strategic initiatives can feel just as compelling as interviews when given a strong visual aesthetic.
Columbia Magazine, Columbia University
Background: When your university counts names like Barack Obama and Ruth Bader Ginsburg among its alums, there’s no shortage of stories to tell.
We love: “The Big Idea” department, a Q&A with university faculty that tackles wide-reaching, big-picture issues like declassified government documents, cyberwarfare and the progressive food movement.
Takeaway: Alumni magazine ideas don’t need to be limited to a town, state or campus. With strategic implementation, national and global topics can be right at home, too.
Johns Hopkins Magazine, Johns Hopkins University
Background: Founded in 1876, Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins is the nation’s first research university. Fittingly, its quarterly alumni publication is packed with weighty, thought-provoking features.
We love: Its artful mesh of academia and compelling storytelling.
Takeaway: It’s not easy to write about science, technology, history and the like with page-turning tact, but Johns Hopkins Magazine could convince you otherwise. Engaging content delivery can ensure the target message is not only sent, but also received — no matter the complexity.
Terp, University of Maryland
Background: As the flagship of the University System of Maryland, the University of Maryland, College Park has more than 150 years of alumni stories to tell. Terp magazine delivers award-winning feature writing, photos and design three times a year.
We love: The bold design choices that make heavy hitting feature articles stand out.
Takeaway: No matter how compelling the writing is, walls of text can be a turnoff to readers. Terp’s design choices create dynamic pages that give readers multiple entry points into the content.
Wider Horizons, Lethbridge College
Background: Founded in 1957 as the first publicly funded community college in Canada, Lethbridge College proves that institutions of any size can create a great magazine. Wider Horizons has won multiple awards for storytelling and design since its founding in 2007.
We love: The emphasis on visual storytelling, both print and online.
Takeaway: It doesn’t take a huge budget or staff to pull together a compelling magazine. Lethbridge College brings fresh and exciting writing, design and photography to alumni three times a year.
LMU Magazine, Loyola Marymount University
Background: Loyola Marymount is a private Jesuit university in Los Angeles. LMU magazine focuses on community-centered storytelling, with an emphasis on the Southern California region.
We love: The “Conversations” department, which showcases notable alumni and staff across disciplines in Los Angeles — from government officials to tech CEOs to professional athletes.
Takeaway: Lean into your institution’s identity when creating your alumni publication. Loyola’s focus on Los Angeles anchors every issue around community storytelling, giving it a clear focus.
California, University of California, Berkeley
Background: Since 1895, California Magazine has engaged alumni with insight, style and punch. Every issue is about two things: life at UC Berkeley and UC Berkeley out in the world.
We love: Its editorial features that paint vivid portraits of university characters.
Takeaway: Approach topics with a lens only your university could provide. Each piece of content clearly connects to UC Berkeley and its alumni audience.
University of Chicago Magazine, University of Chicago
Background: Boasting Supreme Court justices, Pulitzer Prize winners, astronauts and civil rights leaders among its alumni, the University of Chicago has a seemingly endless supply of interesting stories to tell in its quarterly magazine.
We love: “The UChicagoan,” which poses quick-fire questions to a notable alumnus every issue. While other sections provide deep dives into research, this Q&A is personality driven — asking hot questions like “what do you love that everyone hates” or “who would write your life story.”
Takeaway: Remember that not every alumni profile needs to revolve around their career or their education. Showcase their personality and what makes them them.