Suppose you went to college and graduated having access to a global community of people willing and able to help you succeed? Well, yes, all schools provide access to their alumni networks—but I’m talking about connecting with faculty, staff, and even parents of alumni.
That’s what’s happening at Muhlenberg College, where its new president, John Williams, sees the limits of the physical campus as nearly irrelevant in the age of the Internet.
“Most colleges think in terms of their campus community,” Williams says, “but that’s the old way of thinking about college.”
The Network Approach
Instead, Muhlenberg has adopted what Williams refers to as a network approach.
“In the age of the Internet, it doesn’t make much difference where you are in the world. So, we’re thinking in terms of a network paradigm, which sees the college community as not just the campus community, but the global community of students, alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and friends.”
The network is harnessing the human and social capital of every member of the Muhlenberg community, so every member of the network can connect with any other member, to the extent that members are willing to be engaged.
“We’re not granting unfettered access,” Williams says. “Network members indicate the extent to which they’re willing to be a resource. Some may be able to provide job shadowing or internships at their place of business; others may be willing to mentor. They can indicate in their profile what they’re willing to do.”
The Value of a Developmental Network
Muhlenberg isn’t just setting up the network and hoping that students will stumble onto it. A subset of this year’s crop of freshmen will take a pilot class in what may eventually become a required course, contingent upon faculty approval. “The course will teach the value of having a developmental network of mentors and advisers—not just for careers, but for all of life,” Williams says.
Another very cool aspect is the network provides all members of the Muhlenberg community—not just students—a way to connect professionally. “Members can use the platform to build a network to help them explore industries, develop career strategies, and act on professional interests,” Williams says.
Additionally, Williams says that the network’s robust search engine will allow members to search by industry, majors at Muhlenberg, geographic location, advanced degrees, and professional skill sets. He sees the network as an ongoing resource.
“The career development needs of our graduates don’t stop with their first job—that’s where it begins. We fully expect our alumni to be networking for the next 10 to 13 years.”
To view the Muhlenberg Network site, go here.