Sept. 16, 2010

CornellConnect directory, network keeps alumni in touch

CornellConnect is exactly what its name suggests -- a way for Cornellians to connect with the university and with each other.

Part online directory, part social network, CornellConnect allows alumni to update their personal information in Cornell's database (and to choose how much of it is displayed to other people), sign up and pay for events with credit cards, establish friend relationships like Facebook and post photos of themselves.

With more than 215,000 alumni living and working all over the world, an interactive, virtual space to connect is a natural extension of the face-to-face work done in the Division of Alumni Affairs and Development, said Andrew Gossen, senior director of social media strategy for the Office of Alumni Affairs.

"Only Cornellians are granted access, so unlike Facebook and LinkedIn, you can be sure that you are dealing with actual alumni," Gossen said. "We know from the extensive beta testing we did that this exclusivity is a very appealing reason to use CornellConnect."

The social network aspect of the service is still "very light," but discussion groups and career networking services are coming soon, and access to class websites is being phased in, Gossen said. Many classes have had trouble finding qualified webmasters, he noted, but CornellConnect provides easy-to-use templates for class sites. "Anybody who can work in a Word document can manage a website," he said.

The network has been up and running since early summer, but the university has just begun promoting it, sending notices to all alumni for whom e-mail addresses are available, and has so far seen about 6,500 alumni register.

"Based on conversations with peer institutions that have launched similar initiatives, we're right on track with the quantity and the quality of interactions we've seen so far," Gossen says. "Once word starts to spread organically and people begin to see the benefits of tapping into one of the world's most impressive and helpful alumni networks, I'm betting we'll see even stronger numbers."

Use of the Cornell directory and other premium features requires members to sign in with a Cornell-issued NetID. Any graduate of Cornell who does not already have a NetID can obtain one by calling the Office of Alumni Affairs. There are, Gossen said, up to 60,000 alumni who do not yet have NetIDs, so the phone lines may be busy. An online system for obtaining a NetID should be up and running by the end of the year, he said.

To access CornellConnect, go to http://cornellconnect.cornell.edu

To obtain a NetID, call 607-254-2288, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.