We commemorate Walden magazine’s 15th anniversary with a look back at its beginnings—and a look forward as it takes the next steps in its community-building tradition of sharing stories.
Driven by a dream for a new kind of university dedicated to educational access and social change, Walden University has grown from a few dozen students to a diverse and dynamic community with more than 158,000 alumni across the globe. Since 1970, Walden has remained a close-knit community of scholars. Walden magazine has told their stories.
Prior to the magazine’s debut in 2006, the university published a quarterly newsletter called The Walden Ponder, cheekily referencing the book by Henry David Thoreau that had a big influence on founders Rita and Bernie Turner. The Walden Ponder kept the Walden community informed about university news in the early days, but once Alumni Association membership crossed the 10,000 mark, the university decided to find someone with a unique vision and a passion for publishing to introduce a new platform for Walden University alumni stories.
Eric Brosch is now executive director of communications for Walden University, but he first joined Walden in the summer of 2002 as a freelance writer. He had already worked on periodicals for another university and was a contributor to Harper’s Magazine.
Soon after his arrival, Brosch saw an opportunity to create a publication that could tell Walden’s stories to a larger audience in a more powerful way than The Walden Ponder. “Starting the magazine for Walden,” recalls Brosch, “was something I was passionate about because I saw the impact magazines had on audiences.”
The inaugural issue of Walden was only 24 pages, but it set the standard for the next decade and a half. Along with news about Walden University and commentary on far-ranging subjects, Walden also featured inspiring stories of distinguished alumni. For example, it included a primer on how to appreciate jazz written by musician, author, musicologist, and early Walden University graduate Dr. Karl Koenig (PhD in Education, ’72). Another piece detailed the complex problems surrounding the fight against AIDS in Africa, contributed by nursing professor and public health advocate Dr. Lynne Duffy (PhD in Health Services ’02).
That first issue also managed to pack in four feature stories. First, an in-depth interview with author, international trade expert, and economic development powerhouse Dr. Sharon T. Freeman (PhD in Applied Management and Decision Sciences, ’98) explored how earning a Walden degree helped propel her from consultant to running her own international company. A feature on the university’s 35th anniversary provided a “year in pictures” view of Walden University activities during that milestone year. A third article, titled “The Minter Creek Experiment” [SEE SIDEBAR], told the amazing story of what happened when 14 out of 17 teachers at an elementary school in Gig Harbor, Washington, decided to pursue an MS in Education—all at the same time. The issue concluded with a story about how National Technological University joined with Walden to form the School of Engineering and Applied Science.
While the first issue of Walden was both inspirational and informative, the team’s main goal was to create a magazine that embodied the spirit of Walden University.
“Later on,” Brosch recounts, “we surveyed readers, and 95% said the magazine reflected Walden’s mission of social change. A third said it inspired them to refer someone to Walden.”
“I still have the cover of the first issue framed on my office wall,” he proudly adds.
Much has changed since that first issue. At the time, Walden’s catalog contained just under two dozen degree program options. It now lists more than 100 degree and certificate programs. In 2006, Walden had a few thousand graduates; that number has grown to more than 158,000. What hasn’t changed is the drive of the alumni and the passion of those who tell their stories. But as the university grew throughout the 2000s, so did Walden magazine.
“Through those years,” Brosch remembers, “what never changed is the passion alumni have for making a difference and our passion for telling their stories.”
Walden will continue to grow and evolve with Walden University, both in print and online. It will continue to address trends that are changing our world and issues that are important to alumni. Most importantly, true to the original vision of the magazine, Walden will continue to tell stories about our community.
It is a collaborative effort that has survived and thrived through 15 years of growth. While the last year has been more transformative than most, the magazine remains committed to strengthening the bonds of our global community through the tradition of storytelling.
The 2006 Walden article “The Minter Creek Experiment” showcased the transformative power of community.
When 80% of the teachers at Minter Creek Elementary School in Gig Harbor, Washington, came together to earn their MS in Education (MSEd) degrees from Walden University, it didn’t just make them more effective teachers—it brought them closer as colleagues, too.
Steve Leitz, then principal of Minter Creek Elementary, observed, “Teachers with opposite teaching philosophies are now more open to sharing with each other about reading instruction, assessment results, or what their students are doing with an activity.”
Leitz credited Walden with transforming his school into a community of professional educators, adding, “That’s the lasting impact of the Walden experience.”