Beyond Facebook

The new University of Illinois Alumni Network allows alumni to seamlessly network, access the Career Center, establish online clubs and a whole lot more.

By Sara Langen

From the UIC Alumni Magazine, Summer 2011

Although many of the University of Illinois’ various alumni groups and clubs have an online presence, there has never been a central site to access all alumni-related resources.

Kit Beyer ’93 UI, ’94 UIS, president of the Madison Illini Club, likens it to alumni groups being in different classrooms scattered across campus. But that’s changing with the recent launch of the University of Illinois Alumni Network (www.uialumninetwork.org), a comprehensive community-building and networking resource for all U of I alumni.

“UIAN is a building block to linking alumni together,” Beyer says. “Now, we’re all going to be in the same building, walking the same halls.” The new social networking site allows alumni from all three campuses to access club websites, view upcoming events, read University news feeds, access campus and UIAA information, connect with other alumni and network professionally. It will, in essence, be the one alumni site to rule them all.

“When someone asks, ‘If I want to get engaged, where do I go?’ You’ll go here,” explains Richard Williams ’77 UI, UIAA chief information officer. “This is our effort to empower alumni to reach out, connect with one another, build online communities and work with those communities to the benefit of alumni, students and the University. We don’t run these sites—we keep an eye on them and we support them, but they are very much alumni-owned, driven and managed.”

With one login, each member will be able to access all features of the network, including an advanced, sortable online directory of all members. Although similar in theory to LinkedIn, the directory offers U of I alumni more targeted and productive networking capabilities, says Julie Hays Bartimus ’90 UI, UIAA Career Center vice president. “It’s specifically for the University of Illinois, so it’s similar to the difference between a big job board and a niche site,” she explains. “You’ve got something that’s targeted to your connections and the way you want to interact with people. And you get the added bonus of linking back to the clubs and getting that face-to-face interaction as well.” 

UIAN also will provide access to the Virtual Career Center, a comprehensive online resource for career management tips, job-search tools and seminars as well as career and  job-search-plan preparation. Forty alumni clubs (regional, professional and affiliate) are currently on UIAN. Lori Frost ’97 ACES, UIAN associate director, hopes to have as many as 75 alumni networks started and operating over the next two years.

“One of the great things about UIAN is that you can be part of it no matter what part of the world you live in,” she explains. “We have many UIC alumni from China who return to the United States for business purposes. They can use the local club sites or search the online directory to reconnect with their former classmates. The benefits alumni can get out of this are just tremendous.”

Members can personalize their pages to include hobbies andtheir pages to include hobbies and interests, in addition to professional and educational information. Privacy features allow each user to show as little or as much personal information as he or she wants.

The demand for UIAN was driven by active alumni such as Beyer, who wanted one site to provide all the information they need. Social media “is how people are connected thesedays,” says Beyer. “There have been some attempts [to do this via] Facebook, but not everybody is on the same page. UIAN is an amazing tool. [It provides an outstanding way] to network with people who have had the same back-ground, experiences and professors.”