March 7, 2002
"President's Report." It can be a monolith--a combination yearbook and financial report that is both exhaustive and expensive. The University of Virginia's latest, for example, spans 49 pages. Tulane has taken a different approach with its annual Report of the President.
For the third year in a row, President Scott Cowen has opted for his newest Report of the President to be published only on a Web site--http://pres2001. tulane.edu--which debuted Feb. 28. Why choose an online report instead of the traditional, lengthy printed report such as UVA published? Part of the reason is cost savings, but the main reason is to take advantage of online technology.
"Every day people are communicating more and more online, whether it's navigating through different Web sites or sending e-mails," said Deborah Grant, assistant vice president for university communications. "And you can't overlook cost savings," she added. "This is a terrific way to deliver a tightly focused message to an unlimited audience at a very reasonable price."
This year's online presentation from Cowen is not a traditional president's report, instead focusing on Tulane's accomplishments, displaying a lengthy list that holds surprises and gives the entire Tulane community some things to boast about. It was Cowen who came up with the idea of developing a list of positive points about the university. Grant's department researched the list, which was used as the basis for the online report.
Grant said, "Focusing on Tulane's points of distinction dovetails nicely with recommendations from the consultants involved in our ongoing marketing program, who have said we shouldn't hesitate to boast about the university. As a community we sometimes take our accomplishments and our place among the top research universities more or less for granted. "This is an awesome place and we should say that, time and time again."
For the new Web site, the list of accomplishments is divided into three categories--classic, surprising and bold --in a "gauge of distinction." Each item on the list is accompanied by a photo, accessed through a prominent number along the gauge.
Within the "classic" category are items of historic importance, such as the fact that the forerunner of Tulane's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine was the first such institution in the United States; and statements about quality, such as: "The 2001-02 freshman class averaged 1326 on its SAT scores, 306 points above the national average and 48 points higher than four years ago."
The "surprising" category details accomplishments that are somewhat unexpected, which as Tulane being named one of nine "Hot Schools" by Kaplan/Newsweek for having a 31 percent increase in applications in 2001 and for being an "academically superior university" in a great setting.
Items in the "bold" category are ones that set the university apart from its peers, charting new paths for the future. Among these important items are the "daring" accomplishments of the Environmental Law Clinic of Tulane Law School, and the research work with adult stem cells being performed by the Tulane Center for Gene Therapy. The new Web site gives users a direct e-mail link to Cowen.
"When you do an online report you have to focus your message," Grant said. Compared to a traditional president's report, the Web site project required trimming the extra prose and using a straightforward, simple design. At the same time, Cowen's report does include a "By the Numbers" section with charts on undergraduate admission and SAT scores, fund-raising progress and financial results.
Last year's president's report, which can be accessed at http://pres2000.tulane. edu, was awarded a bronze medal for Web sites in the national competition sponsored by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, an organization for communication and development professionals in education.
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