What’s Working Well: Wisr @ Oberlin College
Keeping alumni connected is a difficult challenge for many universities. Once students have graduated and moved on, it’s not easy to obtain updated contact information. Alumni engagement strategies are a way to build a solution to this issue, but many universities don’t know where to start.
Like many alumni relations offices, the staff at Oberlin College knows the struggle of maintaining an organized, up-to-date database of alumni. Engagement strategies for alumni can be difficult to implement if you don’t know where your alumni are and what they’re interested in. After gathering feedback from alumni, the team learned that they often wished they had more guidance and support in their careers. Alumni also expressed that they would also be interested in talking with students.
“The connections Wisr helps foster are becoming a critical part of helping Oberlin students go where they want to go”
– Lori Young, Director Career Services, Oberlin College
Career Services at Oberlin has its own set of challenges. The students expressed a desire to make connections with alumni in order to gain insight in their prospective careers, but were unsure how to reach out. Oberlin students also have a wide range of diverse career aspirations. General programming and career fairs weren’t enough to meet their needs. Without an up-to-date alumni directory, there was no easy way to connect students with successful Oberlin alumni in unique careers, who are willing to let students pick their brains.
The manual matches Career Services were able to make often never panned out because the connection felt forced. Occasionally, the team would hear about successful connections secondhand, but had no way to track how often this was happening or who it was happening with.
When both the Career Services and Alumni relations staff struggled to find a better solution, they set out to find something that could change the way their students and alumni interacted, and that’s where Wisr came in.
Lori Young, the Director of Career Services at Oberlin, quickly saw the benefits of Wisr after researching the current needs of students.
“We have been doing a lot of work around creating our strategy, and where we’re focusing our efforts to have a bigger impact on students,” says Lori. “The connections Wisr helps foster are becoming a critical part of helping Oberlin students go where they want to go.”
Both Oberlin alumni and students have schedules that are filled to the brim, so Oberlin staff knew they needed to find a mode of communication that wasn’t cumbersome. Wisr’s technology offered an easy way to directly reach out and connect, so users wouldn’t pass up a chance to help because they felt it took up too much of their time. The clean and simple design makes it easy for students and alumni to jump on board, make connections, and get on with their days.
Oberlin Easily Created an Alumni Engagement Strategy with Wisr’s Ability to Build an Alumni Network and Create Organic Connections
Wisr’s pilot program introduced Oberlin to a streamlined process for scaling alumni engagement, while also providing students with valuable insight into a variety of potential career paths.
As part of the pilot program, Oberlin’s team is an official development partner, providing feedback about the ease of Wisr, its implementation, and what they’d like to see as Wisr evolves, something that Danielle Young, Executive Director of Oberlin’s Alumni Association, found helpful.
“I do like the fact that they’re asking for input as part of the development process as opposed to coming to us and just saying, ‘This is our product. Buy it as it is or forget it,’ which is the typical approach,” says Danielle. “I do think that they’re really taking what we think into account. They want to hear how the professionals who are living this every day are doing it.”
Oberlin believes the personal advisory board feature will be especially helpful, because it’s difficult to find one person who can give you all the information you want to know. By being able to speak with experts in a variety of fields, Oberlin expects their students will have more guidance and support as they begin their careers. They are especially hopeful that students will discover opportunities and career paths they never thought possible, just by being able to see what Oberlin alumni are doing.
Times Are Changing, Don’t Spend More Time Than You Need Creating an Alumni Engagement Strategy
As new generations graduate, alumni relations and career services teams are seeing different expectations than what they’re used to, and alumni engagement strategies must constantly be altered in order to keep people happy. New technology like Wisr makes it easier to keep up with the changing needs of alumni and students, and frees up time for departments to focus on other important initiatives.
The staff at Oberlin are hopeful that Wisr will help students and alumni make strong, beneficial connections that will provide guidance and a sense of empowerment. Oberlin has hopes that Wisr’s technology will have both students and alumni come away with a new sense of purpose they hadn’t expected.