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Alumni Technology Forum

Welcome to Our New Home!

I want to welcome long-time members of this forum to our new site (and tools!) and, hopefully, greet new members who have come to the new Amherst College site to see what is going on.

For those of you whom I have not met (in person or in the ether), I am Peter Schilling, the director of IT at Amherst.

Folks working at the College, especially me, use this Alumni Technology Forum to discuss a range of past, present, and future technology issues with those members of the College community who are no longer on campus but are most definitely online.

I want to thank Johnnie Odom, the first Amherst College alum to create a homepage in the system. Matthew Weber gets the award (at least from me) for creating the best homepage in the first hours of this new site.

  • To start a conversation on this forum, please post an article.
  • To comment on an specific article, log in and click on the pencil icon.
  • To view past technology conversations, check out our Archives.
  • To post to the Alumni Tech Forum email listserv, send an email to

Launch of the new Portal Page

Submitted by Ellie Swain Ballard

This message was also sent to the Alumni Tech Forum listserv:

As we announced a few weeks ago, the College is rolling out a new portal page.

As of January 24, that new portal ("My Portal" after you log in) is live. We encourage you to log on, try it out and send us your feedback.

A guide to using the new portal features is available at or check the Amherst Web Updates feed from “My Portal.”

We are excited by this new feature and hope its efficiencies and ease of use will allow alumni to stay current with what's new at Amherst and with their personal interests at the College.

You will notice that in addition to the new portal design, "Add this page to my portal" buttons are now on many of the College's webpages. Take a look at the Alumni & Parents homepage for an example of this. Look for the "Add this page to my portal" button, located in the upper right corner of the page in the gray bar.

You will also be able to add your own external feeds like the New York Times to your portal.

The new portal was announced to all alumni in the alumni e-newsletter that was sent last week. You can also view the newsletter online. 

We look forward to hearing from you,
Peter Schilling, Director of IT
Ellie Ballard, Director of Class and Constituent Programs, Office of Alumni & Parent Programs.

p.s. As you can see, we have moved the location of the Alumni Tech Forum discussion to  so please bookmark the new location or add it to your Portal page by clicking on the "add this page to my portal" button. The previous postings have been archived.

Please also note that currently, the listserv and the online discussion group are not integrated, but we are working toward that goal this spring.

Focus Group to Help Guide Amherst College Web Site Redesign

As you know, the College's Internet Strategy Group has begun work on a redesign of the graphics, navigation, and general look and feel of the College web site.
To insure we hear from all interested parties, we would like your feedback on the various options we will be considering, including:
1) Possible site navigation and organization options
2) Nomenclature, organization, and related options
3) Options for colors, color combinations, styles, designs, imagery, and related visual effects.
4) The layout, design, and content of the College's opening screen as well as the ways in which graphical and navigational elements from the opening screen are/are not represented on templates used throughout the site.
5) Finally, all of these things in combination.
We invite alumni to post comments and feedback about redesign.    
We will also be holding sessions on campus to gather feedback from faculty, staff and students. If you are in the area and available to drop in at these times, please do.  The sessions will be held in Webster 102 from 12:30-1:30 on alternate Fridays starting February 29th (March 14, March 28, April 11, April 25, and May 9).  We will send an email to the alumni tech forum on these dates and direct you to post your comments on the issue being discussed.  We will also be posting brief surveys to accompany these drop in sessions to garner feedback on specific topics. Please take the time to complete these surveys online. We value your feedback and perspective as off-campus community members who may see and use our website differently than our on campus constituents.
We will continue to post visual mock-ups as they are available for you to comment on and we will try to make them as interactive as possible so you can get a feel for how navigation and other features will work. The first topic, thoughts for site navigation and organization, also known as "wireframes," is now available.     
We welcome any comments you wish to leave.
Thank you in advance for any thoughts you are willing to share on these topics.
For the Internet Strategy Group

Improving Amherst Online

Submitted by Ellie Swain Ballard on Wednesday, 12/3/2008, at 10:31 AM

Dear Alumni-Tech members,

A couple weeks ago, Alumni and Parent Programs invited all alumni with e-mail addresses to complete a survey online to gather feedback about how Amherst alumni use the web in general, and the Amherst website specifically, and what kinds of content alumni are looking for on the site. We've received a healthy response so far, but still need more responses to have enough data to work with. As our designated tech group, I encourage you all to take 5-10 minutes to complete the survey and also ask that you encourage fellow alumni who may not be in this group to participate as well. The link is below. We look forward to your feedback.

Alumni Web Survey


Amherst Administrator's 'IT Index' Highlights Trends in Student Technology Use

Submitted by Ellie Swain Ballard on Thursday, 9/25/2008, at 2:43 PM

This article, highlighting the 'IT Index' that Director of IT, Peter Schilling maintains, was featured in the September 24 Chronicle of Higher Education.

The information presented in the 'IT Index' is available here:

My Amherst Web Service to Launch Sept. 17

Submitted by Ellie Swain Ballard on Wednesday, 9/17/2008, at 2:17 PM

Dear Alumni Tech Forum,

On Wednesday, September 17, the college will role out a new Web service for all members of the Amherst College community: "My Amherst"

Now you can find your profile, personal website, RSS reader, college announcements, the Campus Intranet and a host of Web resources in one place: "My Amherst." In the future, more of the "My Amherst" features will be customizable.

You can get to "My Amherst" from anywhere on the college Web site by clicking the "My Amherst" link in the upper right of the screen. Log in and view all the features now contained in My Amherst by clicking on the tab "Log in to see more tabs." Note that you can still go to the Intranet and announcements without logging in, via the "Campus Intranet" link on the college homepage. Learn more by logging into "My Amherst" this afternoon:


The New Design is Live!

Submitted by Ellie Swain Ballard on Wednesday, 8/20/2008, at 2:47 PM
Dear Alumni,
Yesterday, we successfully upgraded our website to the new visual design and the newest version on Drupal 6. Minor bugs aside, it has been a smooth transition. I invite you all to visit the new site (, log in and explore. If you maintain any content on the site (whether for a class, association or personal information) please take a moment to check on your content and explore some of the new features.
We'd love to hear any feedback you have about the new design and of course, please let us know if you encounter any bugs or strange happenings on the site.
With the redesign and transition to Drupal 6 complete, we are looking forward to continued work on various priorities that improve the functionality of the website for our alumni.
Warm regards,

Getting Ready to Launch the New Redesign

Submitted by Ellie Swain Ballard
Dear Alumni,

Over the course of the spring 2008 semester, a group of faculty, staff and students worked closely with the larger Amherst community,  including alumni, to recommend a new graphical design for the Amherst College website. Pulling information and feedback from on-campus community forums, online discussions and usability testing, the redesign group developed a compelling new design that we feel will serve our goal of helping users create their own content as well as easily access already created content on the site.

We’d like to thank alumni who participated in the online forum, came to any of the community meetings and/or participated in our usability testing. Youfeedback helped us to make informed decisions about the future of our website.  We are excited to see this new design live on the website by the beginning of the Fall semester.  You can see a mock-up of the new design at the following website:

In addition to the graphical redesign of the site, our web services group has also been working dilligently on the complex undertaking of upgrading our CMS from Drupal 5 to Drupal 6. For those of you who maintain pages on the Alumni website, we want to point out that while the dramatic visual make-over should not affect the layout or formatting of already existing content, there may be a few bugs from the upgrade to Drupal 6 If you do notice any strange effects to your content  or during any editing process , please let me know right away so we can track down the source. 

Thanks again for your participation and we look forward to your feedback when the new design is up!  I will send out another notice when the redesign is live. 

Warm regards, ~Liza

New Design, Graphics, and Navigation for the Amherst College Web Site

Submitted by Ellie Swain Ballard

Over the course of the last six months, a group of faculty, staff, and students have worked together to consider and recommend a new graphical treatment for the Amherst College web site. Appreciating the changes in the aesthetic and functionality of the web as it moved from an adjunct to print publications to a more collaborative and networking tool, this redesign group had as one of its guiding objectives the wish to help web users on and off campus create compelling content as well as find the compelling content created by other members of the College community.

We wish to thank the many who left comments on the Redesign Web site forum as well as those who came to one or all three of the open meetings held on campus. We would also like to thank, especially, those who helped with usability tests. The suggestions and reactions of all were greatly appreciated.

Please take a look at a mock up of the final look and feel at the following web site:

We plan to put this new design in place in mid-summer.

Thank you.

Peter Schilling

The Survey is open

Submitted by Ellie Swain Ballard

Dear alumni, 

The Website Redesign Committee has opened the survey on the visual design treatment of the site and we invite you take a few minutes to send us your thoughts. The survey will be open until April 25 at 5pm. 

View mockups of visual design options.

Take the survey

Thank you for participating in this process! We appreciate your feedback.