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The quality of our website reflects the quality of our University

After two years of research, careful planning, new design, a lot of writing, four video and photo shoots and a little bit of dumb luck, our new website launched on October 31, 2011.

For our small team, the project was a labor of love fueled by a modest budget, moral support from the campus community and an occasional dose or two of heart-healthy red wine when the work ran late into the night. Are we happy with the result? Absolutely! But we’re going to keep at it until it’s perfect.

Why all this effort?

We’re all about “Minnesota Nice” and that motivates us to go beyond simply passing along information. We want to show our visitors Northwestern’s vision and the vitality of life on our campus. This is our new public face – pure and simple – and it shows much of what Northwestern is and does.

From the beginning, we set out to paint an accurate portrait. One that depicts our culture and community while celebrating the energy and passion that we bring to our work. After all, we educate healthcare providers and, while that’s a serious business, it has to be fun – and the portrait has to be authentic.

The effort of our web project team honors our students, our alumni and our community partners. It’s also a tribute to the staff who serve our students, and the faculty who prepare them to enter our professions. In other words, it’s about the people.

There’s another reason for all the effort – in fact the most important reason – and it’s simple. We have a conscience that compels us to help prospective students make life-defining career decisions. So, we committed ourselves to showing and telling it like it is. That’s why we included stories from our graduates and donors, and the images of our students and faculty doing what they do every day. You’ll find out about the challenge of pursuing a Northwestern education – and the help you’ll get along the way.

We’re also a research institution and our website is an important source for information about the clinical investigations we pursue and our contributions of new knowledge that inform and improve patient care. Visit the Research section of our site and you will see a commitment to helping health professionals provide the best care possible.

And that brings us to another reason for our website makeover – to better inform the patients we serve in our own clinics and in collaboration with our community partners. When you explore our site, you will come to appreciate our aspirations to both blend the science and art of care that is more collaborative, integrative and patient-centered.

How did we pull this off?

It all started with a mandate from President Mark Zeigler to our creative, focused and delightfully tenacious Website Services manager, Monika Brady. She had the original vision, the sheer determination and the perseverance necessary to get the job done – all while working with Dr. Chuck Sawyer, senior vice president, who is still trying to climb up a steep learning curve. Monika was joined midway through the project by Susan Ricketts whose keen eye for editing and deep knowledge of the institution was invaluable.

Web design and more

NewCity logo We established a relationship with a great website design and brand consulting firm, NewCity. They’re located in the picturesque hills of Blacksburg, Virginia. NewCity's team held our hand throughout the entire process. It began with good research, a visitor-focused navigation structure, solid page design and some well-deserved tough love when we needed it most. We became close professional and personal friends – because they are that good!

Content management system

TerminalFOUR logo TERMINALFOUR, our content management system partner, is located in Dublin, Ireland, where if you run into a technical snag, a pint (or two) of Guinness often brings you the solution. Their expertise, creativity and problem-solving talents have gotten us through more than one rough spot. Daniel Keane, our highly-skilled and dedicated web developer, simply worked his magic to make sure our new website functions as planned. We look forward to working with Daniel and the team at TERMINALFOUR on new additions to our site.


When we got to the writing stage of the project, we got stuck in the mud and couldn’t get out until a website content specialist from Minneapolis, Jo Marsicano, came to the rescue. Jo also provided some tough love and you get a small glimpse of what she put us through by reading her blog, Divine Content. Believe us when we say - she’ll keep you on the straight and narrow.


We also needed good photographers and videographers and we had them both. Paul O’Mara from Rome, Georgia shot the stills (about a hundred pounds worth) during two week-long photo shoots. We also took advantage of some local talent: Arne Krogsveen from Northwestern and a young up-and-comer, Matt Skalski.


The videographer, well, we went a little nuts by hiring Steve Mason from Roanoke, Virginia. High definition was not good enough for Steve – oh, no, our video had to be shot in ultra-high definition with a camera called the Red One (He has the same make and model used in Hollywood). It’s really big and plugs directly into a MacBook Pro loaded with Final Cut and some other mysterious software. You can see the result in the panoramic stills and video clips that make up our Virtual Tour.

Virtual tour planning

And speaking of the tour, we had great help from Dr. Glori Hinck, associate professor, and students, Amanda Parish and Chris Volesky (College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine), Kate Sanders and James Dragich (School of Massage Therapy) and Jeremy Thompson and Shanna Shouman (College of Chiropractic). They all took time out of their very busy schedules to make the tour come alive.

IT staff support – you gotta have it                                

Our Information Technology department went above and beyond what was needed to support this effort. Doug Cran, Leif Hvidsten, Andrea Kodner-Wenzel and Dan Prill installed and configured a new web server, a content management system and assisted our TERMINALFOUR consultants with the programming necessary to make our new website features work easily for the user.

And there were others…

We had additional help from Jenna Seal, outside consultant, and Valerie Overby, a College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine student, who both pitched-in with interviewing, editing and much more.

Many of our alumni graciously gave their time to tell us, through their stories, how much a Northwestern education means to them.

Our faculty and staff developed original content for the website – after all, they are the experts. Many arduous hours were spent contemplating every thought and every word.

And, finally, we would be remiss to not mention the money – and even though it was spent wisely – two successive CFOs, Jim McDonald and Ross Dugas would roll their eyes. But in the end, they saw the light because they knew it was important and the investment worthwhile.

So, that’s our story…for now. Our work continues.

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