Author: vschuler2013

What’s Your SMU Aha! Moment?

Faith and frost on a crisp, March morning.

Faith and frost on a crisp, March morning.

This morning as I motored onto campus I was once again moved by the beauty of our little 380 acres. The canopy of trees on Abbey Way opened to pre-sunned fields, crunch-covered with frost. The water ponds on the left, still hazy, steam rising. Red-winged blackbirds standing tall on threads of grasses, defying physics. As I got out of the car the air kissed my face with that yummy chill that comes on early mornings when the temperatures are low, the skies are blue, the sun is up — though not quite — and some mystical force makes the edges of everything a little more distinct.

I was reminded of the first time I drove up Abbey Way in 2012 for my job interview. It was the first of April and we had a freak snow storm. My interview was at 8 a.m. and being all ya-gotta-do-this-and-ya-gotta-do-that-if-you-wanna-make-an-impression, I arrived at about 7:30. Crossing College Street, hustle and bustle dissolved. I plunged into stillness, spaciousness. The snowflakes were wet and heavy, falling lazily to the ground, stitching an elegant, alabaster quilt over the entire landscape. Reflexively, my foot came off the gas. My shoulders slackened. My brow softened. Everything slowed.

That was my SMU Aha! Moment. The moment when you realize you’ve landed someplace wondrous. Is it the sight of Old Main on the hill? The way the monks have tended the land? The trees surrounding us? There’s no doubt about it. There is something special about Saint Martin’s. This place. Perhaps it’s the way the sunlight breaks onto the fields. Or the fact that for 100 years our monks have lived here, worked here, died here and are buried here. Is the very soil infused with something that makes it easier for us to touch the tender parts of ourselves?

As we spent time with our stakeholders, and OHO, in January, it became clear to Carl and me that there was something, some other thing, that makes us sit up and take notice — this is part of what OHO is helping us to define. For the OHO folks it was standing on the balcony of Cebula, looking across campus and saying, “It’s just right.”

For Carl, it was when he was coming for an interview. “When I was initially hired to consult with Saint Martin’s (1999) I got lost trying to find the campus although I had lived in the area for six years. A hidden treasure? Once I called and got directions (I was only a few blocks away) and drove onto Abbey Way I was presented with tree-lined drives throughout campus. At that time, I thought, ‘I get to work here?'”

For Sarah Holdener it was about a year into working at Saint Martin’s. “I headed down to St. Gertrude’s for lunch and as I wandered through the café and the seating area, I recall saying hello to everyone there… because I knew them all. I was overcome with a sense of community that day. I love that I know practically everyone on campus. It paves a smooth road for collaboration.”

It seems that everyone has an SMU Aha! Moment. People walk this campus and instantly know that this is where they need to be. Students and their parents. Faculty and staff. Our local community. It’s elusive. It’s a mystery. But it’s here. And it’s why we’re here.

Do  you have an SMU Aha! Moment? Share it with the community by leaving a comment below.

OHO était ici! Et l’écoute!

OHO Interactive and Saint Martin's MarCom teams

Your Saint Martin’s / OHO web team!
b.r. Scot Harrison, Greg Davis, Lindsay Wagner
m.r. Carl Lew, Meg Dwyer, Jason Smith, Georgy Cohen, Eleni Stathoulis
f.r. Vanessa Schuler, Genevieve Chan

Bonjour à tous, Saint Martin’s! (Not sure why we’re in France all of a sudden. Maybe I’m just feeling particularly Gigi this morning.)

Yesterday was our third and final day with OHO Interactive (@ohointeractive), the digital marketing phénomènes (et les personnes les plus fantastiques!) that are helping us with our website redesign.

OHO’s visit: a review

Why was OHO here? To get to know us.
And why is that important for the website? Because a website is a conversation. It’s a two-way communication between us and our audience. The clearer we are on who we are, the better we can communicate what we want to say. Since OHO is helping us communicate our story to the world, they need to understand us. The more they understand us, the more they can help us message our story clearly, accurately and honestly.

The stakeholder interviews: a recap

For two days, OHO (and MarCom) spent time listening to you, our stakeholders: students, faculty, staff, administration. They questioned and listened. Then listened and questioned. Then listened and listened and listened some more. (Isn’t there something about listening in the Rule of St. Benedict? Ha!) After some eleven hours of listening, our two teams set about digesting what we’d heard. We turned things over. Teased things out. We ruminated. Cogitated. Assimilated. Elucidated.

Elucidate quoi, you ask? Just a bit of who we are. Wanna hear a bit of who we are, as defined by you?

A bit of who we are, as defined by you

  • Sincere
  • Supportive
  • Thoughtful
  • Genuine
  • Respectful
  • Intentional
  • Unified
  • Healthy
  • Loving
  • Kind
  • Aligned
  • Accessible

Pretty cool, eh? Wanna hear a bit of the story you told us?

A bit of the story you told

  • We transform by being present
  • We are concerned with the success of others more than ourselves
  • We have integrity; we are the same on the inside as on the outside

Again, cool, right?

These aren’t the final messages, just the beginning of the exploration — but we’re certainly off to a terrific start!

A hearty THANK YOU!

None of this discovery would have been possible without those of you who were able to participate in the stakeholder interviews this week. Many, many, many thanks. If you were not invited to a stakeholder interview this go ’round, or were unable to attend, please share your thoughts about Saint Martin’s via our stakeholder feedback form. We want to hear as many voices as possible — we just weren’t able to hear them all this week. 🙂

What’s next?

Our pals from OHO had to return to the bitter-cold, eastern seaboard from whence they came. They bundled up your words, thoughts and ideas, and trotted (flew, actually) back to Boston. But in the days and weeks to come, our two teams, via the magic of the internet, will continue to unpack these ideas and translate them into clear, compelling messages. Messages that will then be transformed into the words and images of our new website.

Stay tuned! We’ll keep you updated and in-the-know. And continue to ask for feedback. We appreciate all that you are, and all that you do.

Souhaitant à tous un week-end magnifique!

Imagination is the beginning…

Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.
– George Bernard Shaw

What will www become?

What will www become?

It’s official! Saint Martin’s University and OHO Interactive* have joined forces to redesign our own beloved website. Wahoo!

Last month, while many were hanging stockings by chimneys with care, we were signing contracts and preparing to hit the ground running come the first of 2015.

Well, here we are, the first of 2015! And on Wednesday, January 7, Genevieve (Chan), Carl (Lew) and I (Vanessa Schuler) had a kick-off meeting with our OHO counterparts (Stephanie Krol, Eleni Stathoulis, Georgy Cohen and Lindsay Wagner) to discuss their first visit to campus. Woohoo! The dates have been solidified and the schedule is almost complete.

OHO Interactive campus visit: January 20-22, 2015

Why is OHO coming to campus? In a nutshell, to get to know us.

Saint Martin’s has a story to tell and a future to live into. The website is our primary vehicle for communicating these ideas with the outside world. Carl and I, along with our incredible web assistants, have been doing our darnedest to keep things fresh, relevant and up-to-date, but let’s face it…it needs a facelift (pun intended). OHO is here to help. Help re-vision the look. Help re-vision the message. But in order to help, they have to get to know us. So they’re spending three days with our community to learn who we are and what makes us tick.

This is where you come in.

Stakeholder discovery sessions

Beginning January 20, the OHO team (Eleni, Georgy, Lindsey and OHO Founder, Jason Smith) will be on campus to meet us. Meet you. They’ll ask us about Saint Martin’s. What we think about it, how we feel about it and what it means to us.

We have a roster of key community members we’ll be inviting to these stakeholder discovery sessions. Folks from around campus: faculty, staff and students. We hope that all who are invited are able to attend, and all who attend share their thoughts openly and honestly. We seek to discover the intersections, as well as the gaps, between who we say we are, who we actually are and who we want to be. Our goal is to bring these into alignment so that we convey our most authentic self via the website.

A series of sessions have been booked around campus January 20 and 21. We’ll be sending invitations** via email the week of January 12. We are so excited about this project, and incredibly excited about spending time with all of you.

And so it begins!

* Put a face on OHO so that when they’re on campus you’ll be able to give them a warm Saint Martin’s welcome. They’re good peeps and we’re thrilled to be working with them.

** This will be the first of many conversations to come. We want our entire community to be a part of the conversation. There will be many opportunities throughout the life of the project for members of our community to participate – for example, share your thoughts on this blog!


Improving our sight…er, site

Siteimprove web governance toolA while back I sent an email about this slick-as-all-get-out “web governance” tool — called Siteimprove — that the Saint Martin’s powers-that-be bestowed on the marketing and communications office, much like Glinda the Good Witch bestowed ruby slippers on Dorothy.

Now, your first question might be: What email?
Followed by: Web wha’?
Then: Aaaand what does it have to do with me?

In the spirit of short and sweet, here are my answers:

What email? Doesn’t matter. Forget this one.
Web wha’? Governance. Web governance.
Think of it this way: web governance is all the stuff we do to run the website and make sure it’s working well. From who works on the site (you, our glorious web assistants!), to how we get things done (workflow), what standards we adhere to (style and content guidelines), what our goals are (well, uh…goals) and the nuts of bolts of doing it correctly (no broken links, misspelled words, incorrect coding, accessibility issues, pages that aren’t being visited that we should get rid of, etc.). Hmm…maybe Wikipedia’s definition was better. Leaner anyway.

Slick-as-all-getout interface

Wow! That IS a slick-as-all-getout interface!

Aaaand what does it have to do with me?
You’ll be able to see where your site is broken so you can fix it. Cool, right? (Yes, I’m a geek.)

Through Siteimprove’s slick-as-all-get-out interface, we can see all the things on the website that might need a-fixin’ (say, broken links or misspellings) and clean ’em up. These fixes are important for a couple of reasons:

  1. Search engines, like Google, treat websites that are well-constructed and well-maintained much nicer than those that are not. Much nicer = higher placement in the search results. This is a good thing.
  2. A well-constructed, well-maintained website helps foster trust between us and our users. Just think about your own experiences. What happens to you when you go to a site and experience misspellings or broken links? Kinda yucky, right?

I’ve completed configuration of Siteimprove and next week, if you’re a primary web assistant, you’ll receive an email inviting you to complete your Siteimprove account setup. Once you do, you’ll:

  • Receive weekly status reports on the health of your website, seeing:
    • Broken links
    • Misspellings
    • (These are the big kahunas. Other things we’ll look at as time goes on.)
  • Be able to login to Siteimprove, see exactly what pages have problems and where the problems are on the .aspx page of your website. Once you’ve pinpointed the issue, you’ll fix it in SharePoint Designer, then send a publish request to Carl.

To help you learn how to use Siteimprove, I’ll be setting up a training. If you’d like to dive in on your own, please check out Siteimprove’s video tutorials or sign up for one of their weekly 30-minute training sessions.

Cheers team!


Saint Martin's vs. SMUI should be writing an introduction post to begin this new Hot Topics! marketing and communications blog, but in the spirit in which the blog is intended, i.e. down and dirty quick tips for you–our fabulous roster of web assistants–this is going to be short and sweet! So get ready for our first Hot Topic!

Saint Martin’s vs. the “SMU”

For branding purposes (and not to get confused with Southern Methodist University), spell out Saint Martin’s rather than using SMU. This is especially important for any external communications.

How’s that for short!

Santa meets Lao Tzu: Saint Martin’s University’s website redesign project

Lao Tzu says, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

Our first step began in spring 2014 when then-Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Jennifer Fellinger, came to the team and said, “We’ve been given a budget for a website redesign!” After mopping up the coffee sprayed all over the table, we shouted, “Yeehaw!” Followed closely by, “Uh, what now?”

“What now?” became step two: Web Manager, Carl Lew, now-Vice President, Genevieve Chan and me, Web Content Manager, Vanessa Schuler, stole away from the rest of the tasks on our plate — early mornings here, late afternoons there — to build, compile, write, list, collect, amass, edit and refine a letter to Santa (a.k.a. Request for Proposal, a.k.a. wishlist) asking for the whole enchilada: one, unique higher ed marketing and web design firm that “gets” Saint Martin’s University.

After two solid months of thinking and conceiving and analyzing and envisioning, we put a stamp on it, and on September 11, 2014 we moved to step three: popping our North Pole petition into the mail (i.e. email, Twitter and the RFPDatabase) in hopes that Saint Nicholas would hear our plea.

Now the way I understand how Santa to works, you write your letter, put it in the mail and wake up Christmas morning with either a lump of coal or a shiny new toy, depending on whether you’re naughty or nice. Weeelllll, Santa works a little differently on projects with a budget, so a few weeks after we sent our letter into the Internet ether…Ba-da-boom, ba-da-bing! An elf appeared at the MarCom door with 16 proposals ranging in size from 20 pages to 75 pages and a note from Santa saying “Season’s greetings! You decide!”

Ack! Egads! How to choose?

This led to step four:

Like Who’s down in Whoville, the tall and the small,
We poured through proposals, we went through them all.
We gave the committee* the best we could see,
And asked if they’d rank them: one, two or three!

By October the committee had ranked the three vendors and invited them to campus. Step five. One by one they came. Bringing gifts of words, ideas and presentations–each according to their strengths. And their strengths were legion!

We scurried back to HQ to converse, examine and weigh. Through quiet contemplation and deep deliberation we arrived at a decision (step six), dispatching our choice (step seven), via candy cane pneumatic tube, back to the land of snow, to see if Santa would deliver the goods! And…

It’s not yet Christmas, but we’re happy to say,
Step eight has happened, yay, yay and YAY!
Santa delivered our vendor of choice,OHO Interactive logo
The one we believe will give us our voice.
The one who will “get” us and help us achieve,
The magic we’re seeking, the stories we’ll weave!
Hailing from Boston, a fabulous team,
OHO Interactive, they’re truly our dream!

Congratulations to OHO Interactive and Saint Martin’s University on our gift of collaboration!

Our journey of a thousand steps has begun. Thank you to President Heynderickx, the Board of Trustees, Dino Batali and our amazing web committee for helping us take these first steps.

Stay tuned to our MarCom blog. This is a journey we’re taking together. We want to share each step with you and get feedback from you along the way.

“OHO, ho! Merry Christmas!”

*Our web committee: super-duper-troopers Dino Batali, Deanna Bourgault, Bailey Craft, Greg Davis, Ellamae Donato, Meg Dwyer, Genevieve Gottwald, Scot Harrison, Fumie Hashimoto, Ryan Jackson, Spencer Jerome, Megan Lobdell, Mary Maselli and Alyssa Nastasi.