Telling the Vanderbilt Story
This was one of those A-HA! projects that come out of nowhere and then takes over your life—but in a good way. Lacy and I were brainstorming about something or other when we had the idea to create a site that focuses on the people at Vanderbilt. Faculty. Staff. Students. Alumni. Not the research they’re doing, or awards they’ve won, but about the people themselves.
Working in higher education communications brings plenty of joys, and also some challenges – one of which is to get people to see “Vanderbilt” as more than an institution, a hospital, a set of buildings, part of the SEC, an area of town. There are real people here— ~37,000 of us—and when you get to know us, you get to know Vanderbilt. We all have an interesting and unique story. When you compile all of the interesting and unique Vanderbilt people, together they tell The Vanderbilt Story.
These stories are being written about and recorded all over campus, but we needed a way to gather them all into one place without reinventing the web. What Lacy came up with is a microsite that is powered by the Vanderbilt News site – which is itself powered by WordPress. Any story that is published on the News site that fits our Story-telling criteria, we simply tag it and it feeds the Vanderbilt Story site. We can include stories not published on News by adding them to our WordPress site as an external story. Using some nifty jQuery on the backend, the grid slides into place with each story—and can be easily filtered by using the buttons just under the header for videos, faculty, students, staff and alumni.
One of our main goals for this project was to share it—any website on campus that would like to be telling the Vanderbilt Story is free to use our content. The Office of Undergraduate Admissions, for example, pulls videos from us into their homepage Stories tab and links to the full Vanderbilt Story microsite from there, so their visitors can browse, for instance, only stories about faculty.
This microsite is an evolving presence — with new content being added on a regular basis as more and more cool stories about Vanderbilt people come along.