Richard Rodner, Web 2.0, and You

The CMC homepage is less than ideal and the school knows it.  Vice-President of Public Affairs and Communication Richard Rodner has been here for about nine months and he's just now found his footing in order to take the first serious step in improving CMC's portal to the rest of the world. Since coming to CMC from the UCLA Anderson School of Management in February, Rodner has been at the forefront of promoting our school.  On September 22, the Public Affairs Office released an email detailing upcoming changes to the CMC website.  While these updates work to add some visual flair to the cmc.edu domain, more comprehensive overhauls are currently in the pipeline. The update, which was covered in detail by Rodner’s email announcement, is just the first step of a process that will bring Claremont Mckenna College up-to-date with existing web technology.  “By comparison to where Web 2.0 technology is, we are far behind the curve,” says Rodner, but he stresses that the school will be able to expand its image and capitalize on the future re-design.  The result will be not only a site that supports CMC’s core image, but also a Web 2.0 element allowing student-generated content to be more easily reached by a larger community.

The sweeping success of social-networking sites has generated a host of new ways in which colleges can interact with their own and prospective students.  Some institutions, like Maine’s Colby College, are switching the focus of their admissions advertising away from costly paper and brochure campaigns and instead placing the emphasis on electronic photo albums, podcasts featuring interviews with students and faculty, and a student newspaper that recently switched to an all-electronic format.  Other schools, such as Northeastern University, are working to put prospective students in direct contact with admissions officials, with Dean of Admissions Ronné Patrick Turner developing a blog that has received consistent traffic since its debut.

While the design and planning process for the new CMC website has yet to begin, Rodner says that student involvement and participation will be key.  “We want to establish a framework that is efficient and capable of serving our community’s needs.  Part of this will be search engine optimization and layout improvements, but part of this will also be more content: forums, opinions, blogs, and sharepoints coming from within the school.”  Additionally, changes to the website will profile some of the school's newest selling points-- the Robert Day School, Claremont Hall, and the upcoming completion of the Kravis Center.

The development of a new web portal is an essential tool in recruiting new students.  “One of our main challenges is name recognition,” says Rodner, “making sure we are visible in as many areas as our peers are visible.  Schools that are east coast-based have some advantages, with the density and exposure they get.  They have many more alumni than we do.”  By taking advantage of new technology, CMC is able to reach students who typically wouldn’t hear about the school, building upon attention garnered from national rankings such as US News and World Report and The Princeton Review.

While it won’t likely be until next semester that the new website is up and running, CMC students should be on the lookout for further announcements detailing changes to the web infrastructure.  If Rodner’s vision of a user-friendly interface combined with an increased net presence for the school comes to fruition, CMC could very well be making waves in cyberspace before 2010 is out.