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Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

SEC fosters student-alumni ties through social media

Illustration: Ariel Carter-Rodriguez

Today’s increasingly competitive job market can present a pretty intimidating challenge to the newly graduated or soon-to-graduate Whitman student, and many soon discover that networking is vital. That’s why the Student Engagement Center is currently looking for ways to connect more students to alumni through social media.

“One of the ideas that we are going to spend some attention on this year is trying to have more and easier ways for current students to be in touch with alumni who want to be supportive of students going out and trying to find opportunities,” said Assistant Dean for Student Engagement Noah Leavitt.

Currently students can tap into a network of alumni contacts by visiting the Student Engagement Center to access the Career Consulting Network, a database of around 1,500 alumni. SEC wants to increase both the ease of contact for students, and the pool of alumni that can be contacted.

“The problem with [the Career Consulting Network] is that we have some wonderful people who have volunteered, but they aren’t always accessed,” said Assistant Vice President for Alumni Relations Polly Schmitz.

With the help of ASWC and the Alumni Board, the SEC is looking to make student-alumni communication more direct by creating a group on LinkedIn, a website designed specifically for professional networking. Leavitt said that the college hopes to implement a model similar to that of Wake Forest University, where representatives from Whitman visited last fall.

Although two alumni-created LinkedIn groups already exist, SEC is still in the process of creating a common online space for both current students and alumni to converse in. Leavitt noted that he hopes to eventually have all first year students set up LinkedIn accounts as part of opening week.

“The point is to make communication easier,” said Leavitt.

Another major goal of SEC’s initiative is to make students more aware of the potential of popular social sites like Facebook and Twitter to be used as professional networking tools, and not just for informal communication. A presentation in Reid G02  on Feb. 24 called “Real Deal” will attempt to address this issue and help students make their social media pages more appealing to employers. The talk will cover a variety of topics relating to social media and networking, from managing privacy settings on Facebook to researching companies online for interviews to utilizing the Whitman alumni network to find job openings.

“The Whitman alumni network has always been really tight, so having social media techniques that we can use to tie alumni together is only going to make that connection even tighter than it has been in the past,” said Alumna Mary-Deming Barber ’78, a member of the Alumni Board and one of the presenters for “Real Deal.”

Barber noted that social media is both a powerful and risky tool for networkers.

“Social media and social networking have really opened up conversation in a broader way. It makes where someone is geographically less important than it used to be. You can have a presence thousands of miles away from where you are. That also makes it dangerous, because you can make a statement in Walla Walla that’s heard everywhere.”

Barber said that the Alumni Board hopes to put on more events for graduating students in the future, focusing on both online and face-to-face interaction with alumni.

“I think that the Whitman alumni that are still active in the school are more than happy to share and discuss things with students whenever we have the opportunity to do it, and this is a pretty good example of that happening. Everyone on the board is hoping that this is the first of many opportunities we have to work with students,” she said.

In addition to the Alumni Board, SEC has also approached Whitman Technology Services (WCTS) with regard to holding social media-related training sessions in the near future.

“WCTS is happy to offer workshops to students on social media and other topics as we have done in the past. I am certain other sessions will be offered in collaboration with Noah and the Student Engagement Center in the future,” said Rich Hinz, developer of application support in WCTS.

Some Whitman students have already taken the initiative in social media networking, forming an unofficial Whitman pilot group on LinkedIn to connect with professors and alumni.

“If you start doing it early, I think that’s very important,” said sophomore Signe Burke, who has been using LinkedIn since last year to locate summer internship opportunities.

ASWC president Matt Dittrich also spoke positively of the site’s utility.

“It begs students to really put some time and effort into constructing their résumé, and allows them to get some pretty great feedback on their   résumé because they’re posting the whole thing online, essentially,” he said.

Dittrich said that he hopes Whitman will get more of the student body onto the site in the near future.

“We need to take care of our students, and we need to take this idea of community seriously. We’re sort of one family, and a family takes care of itself,” he said.

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