Hi. I’m Cary. Let me introduce myself.

Hi.  I’m Cary Foster, and I’m the new Director of Web Communications at the Office of Marketing and Communications.  I’m brand new to Saint Joseph’s University in a role that’s never existed before, so I want to take this opportunity to explain my goals, ambitions and priorities.

First, why this position was created.

Here’s the gist of how the official job description explains my responsibilities:

  • serve as the University’s lead web content strategist;
  • promote an integrated web presence across, MySJU, social media, and mobile apps;
  • develop, implement and manage online communication strategies in support of the institutional goals;
  • facilitate partnerships across the University to devise a comprehensive web communication plan;
  • partner with colleagues in IT to drive ongoing web development for SJU.

In short, there is an institutional need for a dedicated expert to establish a university-wide online strategy for Saint Joseph’s and follow through with specific goals that support the overarching institutional priorities.

Why I was hired.

I was hired into this new position because I have just the background and experience to build this venture for the University.  Prior to Saint Joe’s, I led a team of five web professionals at Oberlin College to propel their top-level web marketing, content strategy, web governance, social media, UI/UX design, software development, and email marketing.

I know what it takes to run a successful online strategy, and I’m excited to contribute my expertise to my talented colleagues in both Marketing & Communications and Information Technology.

What I plan to do.

To be frank, I don’t have any solid plans yet, nor should I because I’m still in the process of getting to know this place.  I have lots of ideas based on my first impression of the University’s online collaterals, but it wouldn’t be fair for me to solidify any plans just yet without hearing some ideas from you, the campus community.

To that end, here are a few to-do items straight out of my Wunderlist:

  • set up strategic discussions with University leadership;
  • schedule planning sessions with admissions;
  • schedule discussions with the deans to hear their visions;
  • set up conversations with academic department chairs for input from faculty;
  • schedule strategic discussions with University Communications;
  • schedule strategic discussions with division-specific communications liaisons;
  • schedule a conversation with student senate;
  • start a webteam blog to share ideas with campus;
  • establish a cross-functional project group for developing institutional digital style guide;
  • establish a cross-functional project group for developing institutional social media guidelines;
  • establish a student webteam to help with site production/maintenance;
  • define staffing needs.

As you can see, most of my to-dos are about talking with people.  And I intend to do a lot of listening.  Through these conversations, I hope to start forming some short-term and long-term goals for Saint Joe’s.

Improving the online experience.

While I’m still learning the unique people, history, culture, and the sheer organizational complexity of SJU, my fundamental purpose in my new role is driven by my desire to improve the online experience for our general audience.

Nowadays, improving the online experience can involve a ton of different things, and the following are the components of web communications that’ll drive my short-term and long-term priorities:

Visibility & Positioning

How we want people find our site, and what key phrase we want Saint Joseph’s University to be associated with on search engines.

Branding & Messaging

What our online communication channels convey, and how they come off to people.  Basically the personality that people perceive through our online mediums.

Information Architecture

How intuitively information is organized for our visitors when they navigate the website.

Mobile Accessibility

How seamlessly the webpages, images, videos, email campaigns, etc. display on the variety of modern mobile devices.

User Interface Design

How intuitively interactive components are designed on our website, email campaigns, mobile apps, etc. for the visitors.

Platform & Software Compatibility

How consistently webpages, email campaigns, videos, apps, etc. display/function on the many versions of various software on all of the operating systems that are being used on the oodles of computers and devices out there.

Maintenance & Production Cycles

How opportunely we position resources on our website for visitors.

Content Contribution Model

Who the content experts are on our campus for the different areas of the website, and what the workflow looks like for them to contribute their specialty content for the website.  This ultimately impacts what visitors see on the site.

Content Modeling

How website assets are structured, categorized, tagged, etc. in the database so that different types of content can be related for dynamic output.  E.g. department ←→ area of study ←→ major/minor ←→ related majors/minors ←→ course description ←→ course id ←→ related courses ←→ faculty profile ←→ directory data ←→ syllabi.

Other Technology Stuff

Of course, there are tons of other systemic considerations that ultimately influence the online experience: e.g. server uptime, server response time, network/server security, disaster recovery protocol, software security, software versioning and deployment plans, etc.  Luckily, I have expert colleagues in IT who are better at thinking about technology than I am!

Final thoughts.

Just as you have a three- to five-year cycle for upgrading your computer, we generally have three- to five-year cycles for upgrading websites and other digital collaterals.  For this reason, many of our short-term and long-term goals will be planned with this natural life cycle in mind.

Looking at the cycle for Saint Joe’s, one of the inevitable priorities that I see coming for the University is playing catch-up to the mobile revolution.  I’ll likely write another blog post dedicated to explaining why mobile strategy is important for the University, but it is certainly a huge and fundamental component to improving the overall online experience for many people.

So, I hope to seek your input and hear your ideas through chitchats, discussions, heated arguments, angry phone calls (nope, none of that), and perhaps through the comments section below.

I look forward to hearing from you.

*Drumroll Please*

At long last, we have finally implemented the project we’ve called “Distributed Content Management.” What does this mean? It means that we are finally allowing (very selective) access to the Drupal layer of the site – this is a huge step towards getting a site full of up-to-date, really dynamic content. The site is integrated with LDAP, allowing users to log in with their SJU credentials. Right now we have just one role set up, but are anticipating more in the future (including a very special setup for faculty to edit their own profiles). Also, this update fixed an issue we were having with creating custom aliasing – we were able to replace the Workbench Module with the Revisioning module and the conflict is now gone. Of course, Drupal being Drupal, a couple other things broke along the way, but we’re used to that by now!


How To: Upload an Image into Cascade

Cascade is one of the content management systems used at Saint Joseph’s University.  Users have access to this system to create and manage in-depth information about departments and offices at the University.  This is the first of a series of how-to articles that will assist users of the Cascade system in creating and managing their content.

Upload an Image into Cascade

Before you can use an image in your webpage, you must upload it to the Cascade system.  Before we get started, make sure that the image is on your computer.  If you have the image in a word document, in your email, or on a website, you must download the image to your computer.  Remember where you have saved the image.

Log in to Cascade (

Creating a folder named “images”:

  • Click on the main folder of your website.
  • Select New > Folder
  • In the System Name field name the folder “images”.
  • Do not change the Parent Folder field.
  • Do not change the Metadata Set field.
  • Leave the Publish box checked.  We want to publish this folder so that it and files within it can be seen outside of the system.
  • Uncheck the Index – Include when indexing box.  We do not want to include this in the menu index on the website.

Upload Your Image

  • Choose the folder you would like to upload your image to.  You can use the images folder in your website to help keep files organized.
  • Select New / File
  • Leave the System Name field blank.
  • Leave the Parent Folder field as-is.
  • Leave the File Contents field blank.
  • Under the Data section, select Browse or Choose File to locate the image to upload.
  • Locate the image on your computer.
  • Click on the Submit button.
  • Your image is now uploaded to Cascade.

DrupalCon 2013 Keynote – Thriving in a World of Change: Future-Friendly Content with Drupal

This is a pretty good keynote about the questions you have to ask yourself about what content is going to be displayed where and how and why on various devices. Thinking about how everything is structured to be displayed on different platforms. These aren’t technology problems, but human problems. Here’s the video on her website, along with her slides and notes – I think this is a really great talk for all of our content creators and managers to watch, along with our team – it starts off a little slow, but watch the whole thing – she really hits home and makes some great points that I think our entire web team – both the web services and ucomm sides – could benefit from. She talks about getting people to adapt to new technology – giving people what they need, not what they want. Not caving in when they whine “I want Microsoft Word!” but showing them how entering content into fields is more useful and more extensible, etc. She recommends these books: Content Everywhere and Managing Enterprise Content (calling them “indispensible”), along with Card SortingInformation Architecture for the World Wide WebDon’t Make Me Think (which I know I’ve seen a copy of around here), and Prototyping. I think some of these look really interesting/valuable – especially because we are constantly struggling with IA issues here. A quote from her talk:

“Focus on that … person who is never, ever, ever going to call themselves an Information Architect, but sure does need some basic IA skills to do their jobs.”

– Lou Rosenfeld (author of the above IA O’Reilly book)

Back from DrupalCon!

We’re back from DrupalCon, which was a great time – Portland is a pretty cool city, and we met a ton of other developers in Higher Ed – including one from Creighton, which is where Father Lannon is now – small world! I’m currently summarizing some of the sessions for our team, but I’ll post a few of those here, too. I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with the many, many higher ed people we met in Portland and learning and growing from the contacts we’ve made.

Project Management & Projects in the Works

We’ve all now attended the Project Management Essentials training, so we’re hoping that the processes we learned through that will help  us to be super-efficient. We’re also using some new project tracking and wiki/collaboration software, so expect a post from Matt on that soon.

Currently in the works:

Distributed Content Management – allowing users to authenticate to the site through LDAP and edit/create content. This is tricky because we need many levels of permissions and roles, and we need to make sure that the publishing workflow is set up correctly to notify content managers of new and updated content. We’re hoping to roll this out soon because it’s been a long time coming, but we’re switching from Workbench to Revisioning because of a conflict with the Workbench module, so that’s set us back some.

Map & Virtual Tour – Fixing and vastly improving/developing a new campus map and virtual tour. This project is in its infancy but promises to be really great for prospective students.

Updates to Majors & Programs – Fixing some issues, rearranging some content, and improving the search/filtering functionality so that site users can find what they’re looking for more easily.


We’ll also be working on some Cascade updates, WordPress additions, a new social feed for Admissions, a revamp of our internal menu system in Drupal, and a responsive design for our Drupal site. Not to mention the coming of Luminis 5! It’s definitely going to be a busy summer in Web Services.


Matt and Alanna are off to Portland, Oregon next week for Drupalcon. We’re hoping to meet a lot of higher ed folks and gain some insight on managing university sites with Drupal. Expect a recap when we get back!

A quick php reminder

Something so small and silly, but that can break a site. I forgot this last week and ran into some trouble. When you’re writing a module file, never put a closing


tag at the end of the file. My editor did this automatically, and I didn’t run into trouble until later, and I realized what the culprit was. A rookie mistake, but easy to make – and luckily, easy to fix. The issue it was causing was adding a blank link to the top of our xml news feed – which caused errors in reading it. The two seemed unrelated, but that was the fix. Deleted the closing tag, and the feed was fine.

Webby Awards!

Our site relaunch was submitted to the 2013 Webby Awards, and while we did not win, we were selected as an Honoree, which is a great achievement!

It is my pleasure to inform you that Saint Joseph’s University – Web Relaunch has been selected as an Official Honoree in The 17th Annual Webby Awards in the School/University category.

In recognition of the exceptional quality of submissions received this year, the Academy has acknowledged outstanding entries as Official Honorees, alongside our Nominees. With 11,000 entries received from all 50 US states and over 60 countries, the Official Honoree distinction is awarded to the top 15% of all work entered that exhibits remarkable achievement.

Congratulations – this is an outstanding accomplishment for you and your team!


You can see our listing here –  We were one of 10 honorees, so we’re pretty excited.

Site Updates!

We’ve been very busy here in Web Services, and you might notice a few changes on the website – most of what we’ve been doing is on the backend in Drupal, but we’ve made some features of the site a little snazzier – and the entire site should be running a little faster. If you take a look at the pods that pop open when you get to the site, you should be seeing some great dynamic content – different videos and profiles loading every time you look at the site, including a great new video from Joe Lunardi  – keep an eye out for it on the front page!


So take a look around the site, learn some more about our faculty and students, and let us know what you think! There is also a great series of videos on Our Multicultural Campus, which you can see here –