Bridging the gap between students and alumni can be difficult. Fortunately, Oberlin’s networking platform Switchboard seeks to remedy that disconnect.
The online community-based networking platform fosters genuine, often informal, interactions between students and alumni, seeking to yield meaningful conversations. Though many universities use Switchboard’s services, their most successful programs are at Oberlin College, Reed College, and Willamette University.
The Switchboard website home page boasts, “the spirit of reunions, all the time.”
Members of the Oberlin community can browse posts seeking or offering jobs, internships, housing, goods, and even advice. Student interest has swelled as numerous alumni have begun to offer tea, coffee, conversation, and sincere guidance.
Ma’ayan Plaut ’10, manager of social strategy and projects for the Oberlin Office of Communications, pioneered the push for Oberlin’s April 2014 adoption of Switchboard. In an article on the Oberlin College Webteam Blog, she suggests that the platform resounds with Oberlin’s institutional ethos.
“The Oberlin community has a strange relationship to social media. Empty engagement isn’t something our audiences do. We do with purpose, we talk about the things we care about, we think long-form, we ask a lot of questions, and yes, we really, really want to change the world but realize that we will probably need some help to do it,” Plaut wrote. “I knew the platform would fit our Oberlin audience well.”
Current first-year student Anna Kucher used the site to connect with alumni in the Cleveland area and says she was quickly impressed with its potential.
“There have been people all over the U.S. and the globe who want to share their time and stories with me. I think Switchboard is an invaluable tool for both current and past Oberlin students to maintain and continue building such a fantastic and close-knit network of Obies,” Kucher says.
Similarly, fourth-year anthropology major Sophia Fast asked the forums for advice on her upcoming tenure in the Peace Corps. Fast, who was seeking more information about host families and the weather in Senegal, received several responses inviting further discussion or putting her in touch with acquaintances. On posts like this, the flow of information on Switchboard reads like a conversation between real people, a generous and authentic community of individuals interested in helping each other.
“I think the site is a great way to connect with other Oberlin people and that it can be as casual as offering to get coffee with an alum or looking for internships or jobs,” Fast says.
Switchboard is open to current Oberlin students, alumni, faculty, staff, and parents.
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