U-M has one of the largest alumni networks that spans the state and the globe. Until recently, accessing this robust network often relied upon Excel spread sheets, paper lists, making LinkedIn connections, or through serendipitous meetings—not exactly a convenient or reliable system. Frequently, students asked staff at the University Career Center (UCC): “Is there an easy way to connect with U-M alumni to get career advice and learn from their professional experiences?” Now, the response is:
In fall 2017, UCC launched the University Career Alumni Network (UCAN) to help students find and connect with alumni. The vendor, PeopleGrove, developed the platform. Highlighted features include high marks on usability, flexible search parameters, and built-in video and internal communication tools that allow the student-alumni connections to take place all within the same system. Recommendations for potential connections are done through a matching algorithm based on selected, weighted criteria.
“…a must for the professional development of students of all disciplines and ages.”
The UCC tech staff worked with ITS on establishing the requirements in accordance with IT policy. For example, students use the Shibboleth configuration for Single Sign On login. Students’ profile information is imported from UCC’s Handshake system. Alumni are able to create UCAN profiles specifically for UCAN, or may import their LinkedIn or Facebook information. Additionally, UCC worked with Peoplegrove to add a field for DART IDs. For those alumni who have Dart IDs, it is now possible to run reports in the UCAN system and provide that information to University Development for a more complete understanding of how alumni are engaging with the university.
Through informal career conversations and informational interviews using the system, alumni are helping students evaluate, prepare, and successfully compete for work-related opportunities like internships, professional school, and full-time employment. UCAN platform adoption has been strong with very positive feeback. It currently has over 5,500 alumni in the system and 2,380 students. Since July 1, 2017, the system has made 847 connections and has enjoyed average user reviews of 4.75 out of 5.
Michigan alumni’s understanding of the world of work combined with their knowledge of the U-M experience is proving to be invaluable to current students. Drake Eaton, an LSA senior pursuing a B.A. in Economics with a minor in Entrepreneurship, says, “UCAN is an extremely straightforward system that may very well be the most impressive asset managed by the University of Michigan; the quick and easy setup of UCAN makes it a must for the professional development of students of all disciplines and ages.”
Kerin Borland (director of the University Career Center) contributed to this article.