Bringing Alumni Back:

Graduates of the University of Virginia use technology to keep in contact

By LaToya Gilbert

Once you leave the University of Virginia, how do you access all the aids that you've become accustomed to throughout your stay in Charlottesville? How do you get schedules, resumes, and job listings? After graduation, are you really thrown out into the real world without a safety blanket? The answer, definitively, is "NO," according to Helen Stephen Dwyer and Kathryn Gracey of the Alumni Association.

The association's Web page, for example, can be accessed from all over the world to link graduates and undergraduates to the university's programs and activities. It offers contact information, club information, and frequently updated schedules and activity reports. The site provides an alumni email directory, an overview of each club's activities, and schedules for sports events and other happenings at the University.

Virginia's Alumni Association is in the midst of conducting a comparative study with other universities to find out what services they offer their alumni--to find ways to expand the system. The Alumni Association is currently adding many different services to the Web site. These services include an online database, which would allow alumni to update and locate addresses online; email forwarding--this will route messages from old addresses to new addresses; and career services--a mentoring database, networking online, job posting, resume posting, chatrooms, and bulletin boards. The new features are expected to be introduced in stages beginning late next year.

The current Web site is quite effective. The link allows University of Virginia alumni to contact people who may have relocated. The site also can provide information to graduates faster without them having to call directly to departments and organizational offices. The alumni have the convenience of visiting Charlottesville while at the same time being seated in New York, Atlanta, California, or anywhere else in the world.

So now that an efficient method of communication has been established, the main goal is to enhance the system so that its information is sufficient for all of its users. Visitors who frequently link to the Web site comment on the lack of alumni-to-alumni communication opportunities. The Alumni Association committee is addressing these issues, as noted earlier, and endeavoring to broaden the options offered on the page. By broadening the options available on the Web site the Alumni Association opens a network that will eventually be visited as frequently as email accounts are accessed and telephone calls are made. "Our goal is to become the number one provider of technology services for alumni," Dwyer comments--and apparently they are on their way.

Dr. Gerald F. Banks, a 1986 graduate and a frequent visitor to the site, comments that "the Web page is a great way to keep in touch with U.Va." Though he's constantly on the go, he can access the site whenever he wants and from wherever he is to get the latest information.

Joseph L. Crocker, a 1995 graduate and also a visitor to the Alumni Association Web site, says that he has already been able to use the Web site to make business contacts. He has been able to find names of other alumni who run their own businesses, has posted his resume, and has received specific information regarding companies offered by other Virginia alumni.

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