Connecting Alumni Communities

This morning I talked to a large group of Alumni Association staff about ideas related to connecting communities. The talk was titled, Emerging Trends for Connecting Communities, and focused on the emergent opportunities within social environments, content creation spaces, and the rise of mobility. It is always quite a bit of fun getting to talk to people outside my specific area of focus and I always discover that we have far more in common than I expect going in.

Another nice thing was that I got to give the talk in my old stomping ground at the IST Building … in the IST Cybertorium no less. That space has a lot of memories for me — I spent several years working on planning the building with colleagues and then several more spending nearly all of my work time walking the halls. Each summer I got to teach my PA Governor School scholars in the Cybertorium and loved every minute of it.


Nothing too earth shattering with today’s talk other than it served as an amazing reminder of how interesting all of what we do is to people in general. The ideas related to connecting communities move effortlessly from teaching and learning to alumni relations. I think one of the things it means to me is that the work we are doing in promoting digital expression and engaging via mediated platforms is in the sweet spot. I really don’t think it has anything to do with the technology per se, but instead in what the technology provides. I received a good question about how to get alumni service groups to break out and embrace the new environments (he was asking specifically about Facebook, Twitter, etc). I responded in a way that I think surprised him a bit — I asked him to ignore the technology and instead start to press on what it enables. Alumni Associations are all about staying connected with their communities … so if his administration is balking at Twitter, why not ask if being able to stay ultra connected to a very active network of people is important? Coming at it from that perspective it gives you a wedge to then introduce a solution that fits that scenario.

It was a fun and very thoughtful group of people. It is honestly a real honor to get to talk to people outside my domain and have it be received in such a positive way. I especially liked getting to tell someone what ROFLMAO meant when it came up in a Twitter search. This is powerful stuff and it is relevant in so many ways … if one stops and investigates the affordances and not just the tools.

11 thoughts on “Connecting Alumni Communities

    • My pleasure! I had a blast … great group to talk to. Looking forward to keeping the conversation moving forward.

  1. Yes, thank you, Cole. Your talk was informative, enngaging, inspiring. A lot of alumni relations offices across the Penn State system will be enhancing their community connectivity as a result.

  2. Thanks for a very engaging presentation that gave me much to think about. Keep moving along these lines and I won’t hold it against you if you don’t get right to fixing Angel…

  3. Interesting, I had the same discussion with the next Executive Director of my Alumni Association (or should I say my other Alumni Association) last week. Our class has been doing social media for a while and the Alumni Association has a strong, active presence on LinkedIn.

  4. I just discovered that the Penn Stater, our alumni magazine, has a blog. I was surprised that I didn’t know- I’m not an alumnus, but I try to stay informed. Your talk would’ve been a fantastic one to hear- have you considered recording all of your talks? It would make an interesting body of work. Considering the ease with which it could be done, maybe we could be recording every presentation that any of us makes?

    • You know, I was actually going to record this one … I used to do it for every single talk I gave. I carried a little Lav mic that I would just clip on and go. There were big technical problems at the IST Cybertorium that kept me from actually doing it. I’ll start doing it in the future … the other thing is the notion of value — is it worth the bandwidth? So much about what made this one fun was the conversation.

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