Auburn Student and Alumni Network ::

Campaigns students worked very hard this summer.  They created a social network and pitched it to the faculty of the Department of Communication & Journalism, Auburn University.

Alana Wells, Sherry Namburi, Miles Duncan, Brett Pohlman, Lindsay McCormick and Whitney West were all members of the PR Campaigns class, Summer 2008. This site is their creation. Search for their resumes at and hire them. ;o)

The mission?  Bring together students and alumni in an online community.

It launched last week.  In less than a week, members have looked at 2,673 pages on the site.  That’s 11.67 pageviews per visitor.  Members spend, on average, 9:49 on the site per visit.  We’re in the early stages of inviting members.  We have 141 signed up, as of Monday evening (six days into the site’s life).

I can’t let you in, as we’ve made this a totally private site.  I can, however, share a look at a screenshot. (Sorry, big file. 800kb)

Colleges and universities have their own alumni departments & programs, to be sure.  But, when you want to bring your niche group together in their sites, it isn’t always possible.  This site will help us connect with our best resources: alumni and students.

We aren’t trying to replace Alumni’s efforts, or thwart them, but we needed a way to engage your students and alumni directly.  I actually believe that our efforts will supplement Alumni’s work.  We can keep our alumni more engaged with the department.  That way, when Alumni contacts them … they still have a relationship with the university.  Cool idea, huh?

More universities should consider this.  Why not?  You have a built in workforce … students.  They can run the site and keep it active.  The site could even be worked in a course’s activities and exercise requirements.  If not that way, you could use your in-house ambassadors (if you have them) or the PRCA / PRSSA chapter could run it.  Hey, it’s good experience for the students.

The Department of Communication & Journalism at Auburn University is often the largest department on campus.  We’ve often had over 1,000 students.  And, in case you’re wondering, our PR program has a higher minimum GPA (than most any program on campus) to even be considered for enrollment.

We want to keep in touch with our alumni.  They are successful and so valuable to our current students.

I see this site as sort of a mini-PROpenMic.  It is a a Web site.  Our site is, I believe, more dynamic than any other department social network I’ve heard of at any university.  But, I’m not familiar with all.  Surely, there must be more out there.  Does your program have such a site?

I believe these sites are the wave of the future for college and university programs that wish to keep in touch with their students in a way previously impossible for most departments to launch.  Ning makes that possible.  (Yes, I’m a big fan of

Students will actually run the site.  Each semester, classes will be responsible for creating the content published on a weekly basis.  From videos to interviews with students & alumni, we will be able to keep the site fresh.

Ning’s various features help us keep the site rich with content, too.  Events and music players allow us to share podcasts and post upcoming events around the area, not just department events.  Groups allow us to share job and internship listings.  Alumni may contribute content, too.

Finally, the key to this type of site being successful is to have faculty buy-in.  That commitment of time assures that students will hear from the faculty.  Communication becomes open and more frequent.  Sure, I’ve heard some faculty (not necessarily at Auburn, either) say that they really don’t want more communication.  So, I’m happy that Auburn’s PR faculty bought into the project.

Other potential pitfalls?  The site will allow students to share their ‘issues’ with the program.  Well, OK.  Hey, if they aren’t complaining here … you can be sure they’re complaining somewhere.  Why not be aware of their feelings and opinions?  I don’t get those that want to avoid student input.  Sure, I understand why they feel that way, but the rationale just doesn’t sit well.

OK, that’s our new student network.  Your thoughts?  I was wary of posting about this, but the students worked hard on it.  We may have some people attempt to sign up (that dont’ belong) but I’ll just have to deal with that.  If nothing else, I love the domain name.  Thanks to Barbara Nixon (on Twitter) for letting me bounce ideas off her, too.  :o)


0 thoughts on “Auburn Student and Alumni Network ::

  1. R. Efrain Ayala

    Wow! Just by looking at the page snapshot I can see all the handwork that was put into this project.

    It is a great site. I wish my college had done projects like this.

    I hope that this site really takes off in your school’s community!

  2. Robert

    Thanks, Efrain and Jennifer. It was a fun site to see develop and fun to see working for us now.

    I really think more departments & schools/colleges will move to these types of sites in order to develop stronger ties with their alumni. It also works to help the current students feel more involved and appreciated. :o)


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