So what do you think?

I have gained a whole new respect for “American Idol” contestants who are able to subject themselves to instant judgment. I got a taste of that in March when I attended the Editors Forum, a conference for alumni magazine editors presented by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

Spring 2010 coverI signed up for “Magazine Idol,” a workshop in which editors brought three copies of their magazine to a panel of judges. Each scanned it and then gave their opinion—in five minutes! One judge actually looked like Simon (short dark hair, thick eyebrows), and she was just as blunt. “I don’t hate this design, but I don’t love it,” she told one editor—not me, thank goodness—as the rest of us sat wondering why the hell we had signed up for this workshop.

No worries. Most of the feedback on the Quarterly was good. “Nice cover,” one judge said. “Strong images,” said another. “I don’t know if you needed two more photos of this person,” said the Simon look-alike. I tell you this to let you know just how eager we are to keep finding ways to improve our award-winning magazine.

Readership survey

In a more serious effort, this fall and winter the Wheaton Quarterly participated in the CASE Member Magazine Readership Survey. The survey was launched in 2009 for magazine editors at colleges, universities and K–12 institutions that are CASE members.

It was designed to help us all evaluate how readers view our campus magazine and compare the results to those of other institutions. More than 35,000 alumni magazine readers nationwide responded to the survey sent by more than 135 member institutions in the United States. We sent the survey to a random sampling of our readers for whom we have e-mail addresses.

Of the 2,055 surveys sent out, we received 366 responses back. (So our results have a +/- 5 percent margin of error.) Thank you so much to those who participated.

The survey says

There are too many findings to share here, but here are some key ones:

Seventy percent of respondents said they love reading the magazine in print form. Fifty-four percent said they read most of the magazine, which is great, given the competition for attention. Thirty-one percent said the quality of the magazine content is excellent.

In the category of academic and intellectual life, the topics that respondents said are most popular, ranked in order, are: individual faculty profiles, student research and academic experiences, faculty research, faculty awards, faculty selection, promotions and retirements, curriculum, and stories about individual courses.

In the category of alumni life and activities, the most popular topics, in order, are: class notes, alumni in their professions, individual alumni profiles, alumni in their personal lives, alumni chapter activities and regional programming, obituaries, and alumni volunteers for the institution.

We most enjoyed reading your answers to the survey’s open-ended questions, both the praise as well as the criticism. Well, OK, we didn’t enjoy the criticism, but we need it.

Many respondents expressed an overwhelming love for the class notes as a way to keep the connection to Wheaton long after graduation.

Several people wrote that they enjoy reading stories about collaborations between students and faculty members. However, readers would like to see more stories about community service involving students. And they not only want to hear about the scholars, but also about the wonderful variety of students who are talented in so many different ways.

We’re listening

We want to hear from you. E-mail ( or write and tell us what you like about the magazine, what you want to see more of, or suggest story ideas. Tell us about an amazing alum doing work that we should know about. Q