Tagged: oberlin

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Nice lead from Beth Schwartzapfel’s “When Grown-Ups Do Bad Things” in the July/August 2012 edition of Brown Alumni Magazine:

“There are two things you are not allowed to do,” her mother said. Deborah Heiligman ’80 was sitting in her dorm room, talking on the phone with her parents in Pennsylvania. She had just told them she was planning to concentrate in relgious studies.

“You are not allowed to be a rabbi,” her mother continued. “And you are not allowed to marry a rabbi.” So Heiligman did what any self-respecting Brown student in this situation would do: she decided to be a rabbi.

Killer cover from UTArlington. Illustration by Noma Bar.

Next, something from “maybe it’s just me” file. As a photographer, I am always paying attention to how a great photograph directs my eye—how the shooter has used light and contrast and sharpness and compositional lines to first arrest my gaze and then move it around the image. So in that context, I’m perusing the latest issue of Oberlin Alumni Magazine, and I come to this striking spread (had to slice a bit off the right side due to scanner size limitations):

My eye first goes to the large image, of course, which is a photograph of Ascophyllum nodosum, a species of seaweed. (But you knew that already.) Then, seeking a caption, my gaze shifts to the left, where it’s snared by the little black box mid-page before it tracks down to what I assume is the caption: “I will admit to one guilty pleasure, and that’s dessert—especially cheesecake.” Cheesecake? Eyes dart back to the photo. What the hell kind of cheesecake has this glistening green seaweedy stuff as a topping? Only then did it register: The photo caption is actually in the upper left text box. What I’d read about cheesecake had no connection to the image. But because of the black eyebrow and the larger type of the text underneath it, I’d gone straight to that as the photo caption. That’s the kind of thing that can drive an art director nuts.

OK, maybe I should amend that: I’m the kind of reader who can drive an art director nuts.

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The current Oberlin Alumni Magazine (Jeff Hagan, editor) contains an excellent essay, “Poetry is Dangerous,” by Oberlin associate professor Kazim Ali. Ali, of Indian descent, left a box of discarded poetry manuscripts beside a trash can on the campus of the Pennsylvania school that employed him in 2007. Someone in the ROTC office, which is located in the building fronting the trash can, called the police because what else could a foreign-looking, dark-skinned man who leaves a box in front of a building be but a terrorist? The police overreacted, evacuating buildings and canceling classes. Here is the last paragraph, which reflects the elegance and thoughtfulness of the whole essay:

My body exists politically in a way I cannot prevent. For a moment that day, without even knowing it, driving away from campus in my little Beetle, exhausted after a day of teaching, listening to Justin Timberlake on the radio, i ceased to be a person when a man I had never met looked straight through me and saw the violence in his own heart.

A new look for Temple, or The Magazine Formerly Known as Temple Review. Executed by Greatest Creative Factor in Baltimore, the new design, above left, is cleaner, more contemporary, and more adventurous in its typography. Plus it’s got some 50-foot numbers, so you know it’s good. (There are also hilarious photographs of a lizard running, and how often can you say that?) I can’t tell from the masthead who is most responsible for editing, either Betsy Winter Hall or Maria Raha, so I’ll give them both credit.

Virginia Tech Magazine (Jesse Tuel, editor) sports its own new look. Again, new is on the left, old on the right.

Finally Harvard Medicine has issued a video trailer promoting its forthcoming spring issue. This may not be a first for a university magazine, but it’s the first one that’s come to my attention. Many of us are producing video extras for magazine websites and iPad editions, but I haven’t seen a trailer before. Good idea, if you have the resources. Ann Marie Menting is editor. (Oh, clicking on the image below will not play the video. Sorry—I haven’t figured out how to embed video yet. Remember, I’m an old print guy.)

Eight questions for Jeff Hagan

Jeff Hagan, editor of Oberlin Alumni Magazine, checks in from my birthplace state, which is overpopulated with schools turning out fine alumni magazines (I’m looking at you, Denison and Kenyon). Love his response to the fifth question.

How long have you been in your job?

Three and a half years.

What has proven to be the most significant thing you had to learn to do that job?

Planning. Followed closely by growing a thicker skin (which I haven’t learned yet).

What has been your best experience at the magazine?

Finally publishing on time several issues in a row that I like, and having coworkers I really enjoy. These thing are not only tied, they’re tied together.

What has proven to be your biggest frustration?

Feeling like that damn Kenyon magazine takes more chances than we do, and feeling like I’m censoring myself.

What part of your magazine never quite satisfies you, despite everybody’s best effort?

The magazine part. The part that isn’t even in mailboxes when I start hearing about errors or omissions. The part that you realize only later could have been better illustrated or better written. The part you have to look at long after you’ve lost interest or grown openly hostile to it. The part where you get criticized for something and know they’re right. When the press run is done and I hear it’s on its way to the postoffice, I feel no sense of relief. I just think, “Now comes hell.”

What story are you proudest to have published?

The next one. I don’t mean that in a “we’re always striving to do better” way—I just mean our next issue is going to have a monster feature about Oberlin folks who did civil rights work. The writer graduated last year and poured her heart into it. I have no idea how to edit it into something that will fit in eight pages, but I’ll figure out something.

If you could commission a story from any writer in the world, who would it be?

I notice when I’m reading something I like and I then look at the byline, it’s often Anthony Lane. He tosses out at least one devastating description in each review. I’d like to try to figure out something vaguely related to Oberlin for him to write about.

If you weren’t an editor, what would your dream job be?

An NPR essayist, or weekly columnist for a newspaper.

Attack of the 50-foot numbers!

“It’s not a design gimmick. It’s a design element. So shaddup.”

Oberlin Alumni Magazine:

Johns Hopkins Magazine:

Denison Magazine:

The Florida Engineer:

Sawdust (Stephen F. Austin State University):

The Penn Stater:

Kenyon College Alumni Bulletin:

The University of Chicago Magazine (no extra charge for the diseased intestine photo):

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So, any bets on what snares the cover of the next issue of Kentucky Alumni? C’mon, chance a guess.

Carolina Alumni Review, in its March/April 2012 issue (Regina Oliver, editor), reports that dog handlers now bring therapy pooches to UNC’s library to provide a bit of solace to students cramming for final exams. Yes, the image of the spread is here because I wanted to run the adorable dog photo. Yes, that violates the babies-and-cute-animals-are-cheating rule. I’ll wait while you click to expand the image, show your office mates, get all doe eyed, then come back here . . . . . . . . . . OK, that’s enough. Now, credit to Oliver and writer Beth McNichol for the cover story “Family Matters” (no link at the moment), an honest exploration of legacy admits—children of alumni who want to attend North Carolina, are expected to attend North Carolina, but don’t always get into North Carolina, and perhaps should not always get into North Carolina. From an institutional standpoint this is dicey emotional and political ground, and McNichol does a good job with the story. Her opening provides a sample of her lively prose:

One week after we had our first daugher, who is now 7, my husband and I had a serious discussion about commitment.

“Look,” I told him, flush with 2005 pre-national championship game fervor and my fair share of postnatal hormones. “I know you didn’t go to Carolina, and I know that you’d rather watch MythBusters than a basketball game. But I am going to need your help with this.”

I pointed to the slumbering child in the bassinet, who wore a Tar Heel onesie.

“She has to love Carolina,” I said. “I’m going to do everything I can to instill this in her, but I would really appreciate it if you would, from time to time, help push my agenda. Talk it up a little. Get on board with some sporting events and the like. Tell her she’s going to school there one day. OK?”

McNichol delves into the numbers—the percentage of alumni offspring who gain admission versus the percentage of non-alumni kids—and the fact that whether you are a Tar Heel alum or not doesn’t alter the fact that if you live in the state, you pay the state taxes that support the school and expect a fair shake from admissions. She quotes extensively admissions people who seemed to be doing their best to honestly respond to her questions and articulate however much, truthfully, it matters that your parents have UNC degrees. She also discusses—and due credit to Carolina Alumni Review for putting this in the magazine—an example of appalling parent behavior when the son does not get in, and the aggrieved father, an alum, whose first three kids got into Chapel Hill but the fourth did not, on two tries. The story notes legacy students who question whether they got in on merit or because a parent was an alum, and quotes the parents of a rejected kid who wrestle with their respect for fair admissions and their understandable wish that, in the case of their own kid, their legacy status had landed her a spot. Finally, McNichol comes back to her own ambivalence.

Everyone has a life story. At some point, that story becomes an admissions tale, sifted like sand and rock for gold. No one, including me, wants her children to be labeled silver. Twenty years ago, it mattered who I was on my UNC application. A decade from now, should it matter who I am on my daughter’s?

Well, that’s the question, isn’t it?

In the same issue, Carolina Alumni Review devotes a feature to debate over the university’s 212-year-old honor code, in light of a football player recently accused of plagiarism. That makes for a damned strong issue of the magazine, I’d say.

Also in my mailbox was Oberlin Alumni Magazine‘s redo. (That’s the old on the left, new on the right; Jeff Hagan edits the magazine.) I think the new design looks great, and as an editor on a publication that is just receiving the first reviews of its own revamp, I loved this letter to the editor:

At the risk of not being politically correct—I hate the new look of our alumni magazine. In fact, I first threw it away, thinking it was some corporate investment brochure, until I saw the words “Class Notes” (my favorite part), as the pages fanned out falling into my recycling bin.

Alumni magazine editors everywhere will wryly note the unwitting irony in that letter.

Finally, under “things I didn’t know until I started receiving ’most every alumni magazine in the country”: Hobart College and William Smith College are close neighbors in upstate New York, so close they operate as a “coordinate college system” and publish a joint alumni magazine with the lovely title Pulteney Street Survey (Catherine Williams, editor). Now I know, and so do you.