Chapman University


Chapman University was established in 1861 by members of the Christian Church. It is a private, nonprofit university located in Orange, California. Since its founding, Chapman University has become a highly regarded university worldwide, attracting highly talented and high performing students from the US and over more than 60 other countries. Chapman’s mission is “To provide personalized education of distinction that leads to inquiring, ethical and productive lives as global citizens”. The University consists of seven different schools and colleges, including Lawrence and Kristina Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, Wilkinson College of Humanities and Social Sciences, George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics, Schmid College of Science & Technology, College of Performing Arts, Dale E. Fowler School of Law and College of Educational Studies. Chapman University’s marketing and communications team has won a multitude of awards over the years, including Educational Digital Marketing Awards, Davey Awards, WebAward Competition, W• Awards, Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE VII) Awards, Graphic Design USA Awards, and American Web Design Awards.

The need for a better CMS

Prior to powering the University’s website in Cascade Server, Chapman University used Liquid Matrix, a Datatel product. When the vendor discontinued the support of the product in 2011, Chapman University knew that a replacement had to be found and implemented quickly. The timing was right, as the university was about to undertake a redesign of their website. The team also recognized that the organization needed a more robust CMS that would be able to handle the growing needs of the university. 

As Chapman University started their search for a new CMS, the team identified the following main criteria: 

  • The CMS and user interface must be easy for site administrators to use.
  • The CMS is built on new technologies.
  • They must have a large and active user community.
  • The vendor is known for great support and customer service. 

CMS Evaluation Process

The CMS selection committee consisted of 10 individuals, including David May, Chapman’s Director of Web and Interactive Marketing and BarkleyREI, the vendor that Chapman had selected for the redesign project. After defining both the major goals and micro-goals for the new CMS, Chapman University performed extensive product and vendor research, doing a preliminary evaluation of 18 content management systems. Next, the list was narrowed down to five finalists, which included a home-grown CMS, an open source and three proprietary CMSs. After product demonstrations, the top three contenders were chosen.

Chapman performed extensive sandbox testing, from both a technical user’s and a content contributor’s perspective, as it was imperative that the CMS of choice would accommodate users of varying technical expertise. In order to achieve maximum adoption, the experience for all stakeholders had to be outstanding. 

After several months of evaluations, Chapman University chose Cascade Server. The most prominent deciding factors were Hannon Hill’s customer service, the vibrant Cascade Server user-community, its wide use within colleges and universities in California, and its ease of use for site administrators, web developers, and content contributors. 

Implementing Cascade Server

Chapman University selected BarkleyREI to provide the new design for the website. Upon approval of the design, BarkleyREI collaborated with Chapman’s web team to integrate the new templates into Cascade Server. 

After the all page types had been integrated, content was ready to be brought into the CMS. However, Chapman University didn’t just want to import existing content. Instead, the goal was to improve existing content and to create fresh, high caliber content. Therefore, the web team conducted “Writing for the Web” workshops for content contributors. Next, the contributors had a few weeks to write and rewrite their content, which was then submitted to the web coordinators, who edited the documents and made changes for the purpose of SEO. The contributors then used the edited documents and pasted them into their Cascade Server-powered pages, which took only a couple of weeks.

Chapman University also uses Cascade Server to push content to, and consume content from Wordpress and

Chapman University delivers personalized content based on location in their Discover microsite. When clicking on “Discover Southern California”, visitors see a message based on the state they’re in. 

Positive Impact

Since implementing Cascade Server in 2011, Chapman University has seen an increase in the number of content contributors from 80 to 180, while content freshness has improved. End users report that it is much easier to update a page than it had been with the previous CMS. According to the web team, the process of overhauling sections of the site and pushing those changes to the live production site on a specific day has been extremely quick and simple. 

Easy Redesign Implementation

Chapman University always strives to be on the cutting edge of web design and technology, as evidenced by the fact that they were one of the early adopters of responsive web design. In May of 2011, Chapman went through another website redesign and content overhaul. Cascade Server allowed the team, which consisted of 120+ content contributors, to enter their new content and to build out the site before switching out the old site for the new one. Because of the large number of content contributors involved, bottlenecks were removed and the new site was rolled out expeditiously. The entire process from requirements gathering, design, implementation, content overhaul, and the final rollout of the live website tookapproximately ten months.

When asked about their experience with Hannon Hill and Cascade Server over the past four years, David May said “We continue to receive amazing customer service and support. The Hannon Hill team always responds to questions quickly and provides exactly the type of help that we need.”

Chapman University’s marketing and communications team has always been forward thinking and on the cutting edge with regard to content strategy, design, and technology. The team’s efforts are paying off, as evidenced by winning multitude of awards, such as the following 2015 Educational Digital Marketing Awards: Gold Winner – Alumni Website, Gold Winner –, Gold Winner - Social Media Content, Bronze Winner –, Merit Winner - Global Arts Festival Microsite. Other awards include 2014 Davey Awards (Silver Award Winner - and Silver Award Winner - Global Arts Festival Microsite), 2014 WebAward Competition (University Standard of Excellence -, Outstanding Website - Inside.Chapman), 2014 W³ Awards (Silver - Chapman University Website), 2014 Education Digital Marketing Awards (Gold Winner – Chapman Website, Gold Winner – Alumni website, Silver Winner – Social Media Content, Silver Winner – Student Blog (One University), Bronze Winner –, Merit Winner – Social Media Content) and many more.


When Chapman decided to roll out a new website, the University took advantage of the opportunity to upgrade from their previous CMS to a new system. After a selection process that lasted for several months and involved assessing 18 web content management systems, Chapman University decided on Hannon Hill’s Cascade Server due to its ease of use for site administrators, web developers, and end users, as well as the active Cascade Server community and Hannon Hill’s level of customer service. Since implementing the system, the number of content contributors has grown, which had a very positive impact when Chapman underwent a content overhaul combined with another redesign, as it drastically sped up the process. Thanks to the web team’s shrewd approach to design, content, and technology, Chapman University has not only received numerous awards, but has also experienced an increase in web traffic.