A Facebook for College alumni

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September 12, 2008

11:53 AM

With the growing popularity of online social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, finding old classmates has become increasingly easier for alumni. The College of William and Mary Alumni Association has responded by launching a brand new online community, “my1693.”

The association has reliable contact information for about 77,000 of the roughly 82,000 living alumni of the College, according to Assistant Director for Alumni Communications Eric Pesola. In total, the association oversees 26 community groups across the nation, all of which are active in organizing events and posting relevant information. The WMAA also has a website and publishes a quarterly magazine that features both news about recent developments at the College and information about notable alumni, marriage announcements and obituaries.

“Even when I graduated, e-mail hadn’t become very popular, so my only connections to my former classmates and my alma mater were the alumni magazine and an occasional letter in the mail,” Matt McGuire ’95 said.

With the advent of the internet, networking became easier for alumni due to the relative speed, ease and flexibility of online communication. Although many alumni continue to use other methods of contact, online social networking sites are growing in popularity among all alumni and not just recent graduates.
The WMAA took notice of this phenomenon and launched “my1693” Aug. 15. The network closely resembles Facebook in function and appearance.

Since it is a very new application, it has a small membership base, but is showing signs of rapid growth. In
August, 4,053 alumni joined “my1693” and an additional 2,561 have joined this month, said Pesola.
However, there is still a strong disconnect between the alumni website and most College alumni.

“I use e-mail to connect with previous classmates,” McGuire said. “In fact, I had no idea about ‘my1693.’”
Other alumni have embraced Facebook.

“Sometimes I use the alumni website, but I’ve reconnected with many more [College] friends through Facebook,” Alison Chandler ’00 said via phone.

Government professor Clay Clemens ’80, a member of the WMAA board of directors, said that he uses e-mail to correspond with former classmates and students. While he is supportive of the new online community, he thinks that most alumni choose to network through more time-efficient means like, e-mail and Facebook.

Realizing that different generations of alumni have preferred methods of communication, the WMAA is trying to make all of those methods available. The next step is “my1693.”

“There are over 60 living classes of William and Mary graduates out there, so we offer a variety of networking options for them,” Pesola said. “Everyone’s not going to join the online community, but we’re trying to do what we can to involve as many as possible.”

Pesola said that there likely would be an announcement in the next issue of the alumni magazine, she expects even more alumni to sign up for “my1693.”

“I am very optimistic about the future,” Pesola said. “The online network is showing signs of growth, and it will only get better from here.”

While establishing the new online community has been the current major project of the alumni website, the WMAA has shown a willingness to use Facebook. In fact, there are several Facebook groups established by the WMAA and its 26 community groups. As of press time, Facebook groups for alumni in Washington, D.C., counted 87 members; South Hampton Roads: 175; Philadelphia: 35; and Williamsburg: 20.

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