student-and-alumni-engagement

Oberlin Case Study

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Oberlin

Problem to be Solved

Oberlin’s culture of embracing individuality reflects the student body’s remarkable diversity in terms of interests, career aspirations, backgrounds, and demographics. While this diversity provides an ideal setting for a liberal arts education, it presents unique challenges for the college’s Alumni Relations and Career Services departments.

Alumni Relations

How can alumni who fiercely value individuality feel engaged with the collective body of Oberlin grads? And how can alumni in such widespread industries operate as a cohesive professional network? Danielle Young, Executive Director of the Alumni Association, partnered with Wisr to solve these challenges. According to Danielle,

“We have been getting a lot of feedback from alumni that they have not felt well served in the support of their careers… there is not a strong alumni professional network that’s easy to tap into.”

Career Services

Meanwhile, Lori Young, Director of Career Services, was conducting an assessment of students’ self-reported needs surrounding career development. Three clear pain points emerged:

  1. Students needed to start exploring careers earlier.
  2. Students needed access to more opportunities for work experience.
  3. Students needed stronger connections to alumni.

Several initiatives were already underway to address these challenges, but limited budget and staff resources made it difficult to scale the programs‘ reach beyond a few students.

Implementation

Alumni Relations and Career Services took point on launching the Oberlin Wisr Community, with ongoing support from a dedicated customer success expert. Oberlin enjoyed immediate success surrounding student and alumni adoption. Danielle attributed the ease of implementation partially to the easy-to-use design of the platform:

“You don’t get bogged down by a lot of text or a lot of confusing navigations. I really do love that about Wisr.”

Results

While the Oberlin Wisr Community is still less than a year old, preliminary results are outstandingly positive. By all metrics, the launch has exceeded expectations for both stake-holding administrators and the students and alumni who use the platform. Among users who shared feedback on an advisory session, 95.7% gave a positive review.

Adoption

The Oberlin Wisr Community now contains over 2,600 members (for comparison, the undergraduate body is about 2,900 students), including students, alumni, parents, supporters, staff, and faculty. Before launching to students, Wisr ran an email drip campaign to pre-populate the network with advisors, ensuring that students would have a clear call-to-action after signing up. With a strong collection of advisors ready to answer questions, Oberlin opened the network to a small trial cohort of business students. Following high engagement and positive feedback from the test group, Wisr was released to the remaining student body. Lori summed up the value the network offered these students:

“What I think is just brilliant is how easy Wisr makes it. In the past, students might have taken steps to find alumni but then been hung up on what to ask and how to reach out to them. With Wisr, once the students decide to reach out to alumni, it pre-populates messages that can be used as-is or customized, so it makes the initial contact much smoother.”

Alumni Relations and Career Services continue to work with Wisr to develop campaigns to increase student use of the Oberlin Wisr Community. Most recently, the administration partnered with a campus coffee shop for the Coffee Connections project, an incentive program that offers a free coffee to each student who creates a profile or requests an advisory session with an alum.

Data Access

Wisr has helped Oberlin patch missing alumni data and build a better understanding of students’ goals. High alumni adoption came hand-in-hand with updated contact information like preferred email and current city of residence. For the 70% of alumni who choose sign up via LinkedIn, Oberlin also mined key career data like current employer and job title.

Looking Ahead

Oberlin looks forward to seeing the full benefits of Wisr play out as member students begin to graduate and start careers. As the network gains traction, administrators see potential for investigating other applications of the software, like providing advisory resources for prospective students.

 

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