Unlocking Drupal on Your Campus: 3 Steps for Higher Ed Professionals

By Alec Reynolds,
Higher education

As a professional at a higher education institution, how can you find Drupal resources on campus and use them to super-power your website? Familiarity with these people can make  the difference between a successful and a failed project. In this post I outline a few easy ways to start finding what you need to use Drupal at your university.

1.  Find your campus Drupal guru

Every campus has an IT group, but you'll need to find the people who are focused on guiding Drupal-related efforts. Depending on the size and complexity of your institution, this could range from a single individual who manages all campus web services to a specialized team within a larger IT web group or even a dedicated professional for your section of campus.

At Kalamuna, we've seen configurations vary from focused engineering schools like Kettering University, where a web strategy officer acts as a liaison to Drupal vendors, to larger universities like Stanford where an individual school or institution may have its own IT team.

Usually you'll find one person who can serve as your consistent point of contact. I like to think of this person as your “Drupal guru,” an individual who has the time, knowledge, and Drupal community contacts to get you the resources you need. If this person isn't obvious, here are some ways to find him or her:

- Ask your colleagues who has helped them find Drupal vendors in the past

- Does someone from the university help with your Drupal site? If so, who is their boss?

- Who first introduced Drupal to your school? Is that person still around?

If you think you've found this person but are unsure, see if their job description mentions Drupal and technical leadership. Oftentimes professional profiles on LinkedIn reveal more than campus website listings; for example, UC Berkeley's site shows that Brian Wood is an "Applications Programmer in the IST - Architecture, Platforms, and Integration department", but looking at Brian's LinkedIn profile reveals substantial Drupal focus in his career at Cal.


2. Discover your guru’s services and resources

Your guru can help you with many things, but chances are that this person splits his or her time between many other university stakeholders. Finding out what services and resources your Drupal pro can provide is key to creating a beneficial relationship. Some things you should ask:

- Does the campus provide any Drupal development or maintenance services?

- Does the campus have a specialized Drupal distribution (aka "distro")? (more on that later)

- If the campus provides maintenance, does the site need to be on the campus distribution?

- Who can help you vet vendors or knows vendors who have worked successfully with other campus orgs?

- Does the campus have a Drupal user group?

- What resources can the campus provide to help you learn more about Drupal?


3. Build effective vendor relationships

Now that you’re starting to learn about this “Drupal thing” and assessing the resources available to you on campus, you might start needing outside help to bring projects to fruition. Who do you work with? How do you make sure they’ll use campus-approved branding and accessibility guidelines? And if you’re having trouble deciphering some of the tech talk going on, who will help you out?Here, again, your Drupal guru can provide invaluable help to make your projects go well. Ask them if they can:

- Recommend Drupal vendors who have done work with the university in the past and would be good for your project.

- Provide your chosen Drupal vendor with campus guidelines. Ideally, these should provide instructions on how to best tackle brand, accessibility, and technical issues.

- If need be, help clarify feature requests and give you the “scoop” on why your vendor may be hesitant to fulfill one of your requests.

Are you looking for the Drupal guru on your campus? We work with a lot of universities, so we might know who you need to talk with. Drop me a line through Twitter @reynoldsalec.

Alec Reynolds


When his long-standing interest in programming and this "internet thing" became relevant to his entrepreneurial inclinations, Alec found himself helping launch a series of startups. This experience has provided Alec with a deep understanding of young businesses and the product development process, where he participates from the code to the customer.