We’re Golden: Alcalde Wins National Award

We're Golden

Drumroll, please. We have some news to brag about …

Last week I got an email from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the governing body for colleges and universities, alerting me that the Texas Exes had won the national gold medal for our November | December Alcalde cover article and its accompanying interactive presentation, “A Classroom at the Edge of the World,” in the category of Writing for the Web. This is just the second national gold medal the Texas Exes has ever won, and out of 629 institutions from around the world that entered CASE’s annual Circle of Excellence awards.

As I wrote in my November editor’s letter about this story, every once in a while an opportunity comes up that has the makings of something special. When I heard that the university was sending a contingent of professors and graduate students to the Arctic, it seemed like a prime chance to show exactly what we actually mean when we say, what starts here changes the world. We sent Rose Cahalan, already an intrepid and award-winning assistant editor, to document the super-advanced field trip, and we knew that we would make her article into one of our signature interactive presentations.

After some fancy footwork to arrange her a flight from cozy, urban Austin to rocky, remote Svalbard, where polar bears outnumber humans, Rose packed a backpack and headed off to spend a week in one of the least accessible places in the world. We didn’t hear from her while she was gone—it’s tough to find wifi in the Arctic circle—but when she returned we found out how remarkable the journey was, and how dangerous. By law, people in Svalbard must carry firearms, and the UT contingent had guards with rifles on their expeditions to protect from any polar bears. In the article, Rose quotes a university professor stationed up there, who said they have a saying, “If you don’t know what you’re doing in Svalbard, Svalbard will kill you.” Yikes!

Svalbard didn’t kill Rose, mercifully, nor anyone else on the trip. In fact, the team didn’t get to see any polar bears. But they did get to learn about geology and geoscience in a uniquely tangible way. Our challenge once we got back, then, and got Rose’s article written, edited, and fact-checked was to turn our attention to how best to showcase the trip, both in the printed magazine and online.

That’s when we turned to designer Anna Donlan. We looked over all that Rose came back with—hundreds of photos and some audio interviews—plus whatever else we could get our hands on from other people on the trip. What we ended up with at the end of that process is an interactive story that features all-star writing, beautiful images of Svalbard, video featuring UT research superstar Scott Tinker, and audio of the ship’s captain making his morning briefing over the intercom. All of it was built into a fully responsive and custom-designed webpage. If you haven’t yet spent any time with it, feel free to click away and do so now!

Big congratulations to Rose and Anna, as well as to managing editor Dorothy Guerrero, former assistant editor now contributor Jordan Schraeder, and contributing editor Andrew Roush, all of whom helped whip the article into its present, award-winning shape. Thanks also to designer Melissa Reese for her wise counsel, to former video producer John Fitch for his work, and to producer Megan Clifton for managing the digital presentation so nimbly. It’s rare that I get to brag publicly about the communications team assembled here at Texas Exes, but these talented folks dedicate themselves to doing great work every time they sit down to write, edit, tweet, design, code, plan, record, render, and export. They do outstanding work, and they should make all Texas Exes proud.


Tags: , , ,