Students Network with Alumni through iCAN

Taylor Fleming

Last September, Colgate Uni-versity Career Services launched iCAN, the online Alumni Career Advisory Network. The program rebooted a long-standing list of alumni contacts in a variety of dif-ferent fields and made the contacts accessible to students.

Prior to iCAN, Colgate Career Services used a closed alumni data-base. Students who came to Career Services to obtain alumni informa-tion had their resumes and list of appropriate questions for informa-tional interviewing approved by a Career Services advisor and were then given access to five contacts at a time. In the spring of 2011, Career Services collaborated with Vice President of Institutional Advancement Murray Decock to figure out an easier way to use the database and advance networking opportunities to students.

“We wanted to ease accessibil-ity to information,” Career Services Director of Operations and Strategic Planning Teresa Olsen said.The staff decided to maintain the proce-dure of obtaining advisor approval but trans-form the database into an online platform for student use. Because the network expanded upon a system that was already in place, Ca-reer Services required no additional funding for the project.

“[iCAN is] a shift in philosophy for the institution and for our office,” Olsen said. “[The change marked] the first time Colgate has opened up a database to students.”

The next step was figuring out what stu-dents wanted to get out of the search engine. The team decided to allow students to search for alumni by first or last name, class year, major, advanced education, Greek affilia-tion, alumni of color, athletic involvement, company name, job title/function, industry, location or Colgate Regional Club affilia-tion. With 32,000 living Colgate alums, Ca-reer Services carried over contacts from the previous database and eventually obtained almost 900 alumni with updated profiles in iCAN by the end of the Spring 2012 semes-ter. At the end of last year, 337 students had also been approved on to the network.

The database for iCAN automatically updates information from the central Col-gate alumni database to keep the system as current as possible, although some dif-ficulties arise when jobs change or alumni get promoted.

“Though alumni sometimes forget to update to their current employer on iCAN, the database is an invaluable tool for making contacts in any given field,” Guss said.

This year, Career Services is attempting to expand the program and the convenience of its information. One of the goals of Ca-reer Services is to make alumni networking available to all Colgate students. While some students may have grown up with connec-tions to the business world, others are not as fortunate. Olsen believes this is where iCAN comes in as an “equalizer” for all students.

“We don’t expect students to know what they’re doing networking,” Olsen said, but iCAN can help jump start opportunities and relationships that the Career Services staff can help students maintain.

Career Services aims at getting 20 percent of the student body approved and on the net-work. The hope is that students who use and have success with iCAN will eventually come back and be active on the network as alumni.

Since last September, the Alumni Ca-reer Advisory Network has facilitated many different success stories.

“I use the database to reach out to alumni that work in finance, both to bring alumni back to campus for events and to build my own network,” Guss said.

Junior Brandon Fiegoli also networked using the iCAN database.

“I was able to connect with a surgeon at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center where I … split my time both in the operat-ing room with him as well as doing research with one of his … fellows,” Fiegoli said.

iCAN helped expand his research expe-rience, but he also found a greater resource from the alumni he contacted.

“I was able to find a great internship through the alumni connection that I made. I have been fortunate enough to re-ally use the network to simply find people willing to talk and help in the long journey to medical school.

Networking does not only mean you can get job opportunities but [also] … people who you can connect with and learn from.”

Contact Taylor Fleming at [email protected].