Syracuse University Magazine

Social Networking Sites Bring Alumni Together


Brian Spector has more than 300 friends...on Facebook, that is. Spector '78 uses Facebook to reconnect with old SU friends and stay in touch with new ones. Last summer, he organized a mini-reunion for 14 of his classmates by creating a Facebook event page and searching for people with whom he'd lost touch. Through the event page, he planned a dinner in New York City and generated enthusiasm for the reunion by encouraging friends to post photos of their college years. "It became like a little scrapbook," says Spector, vice president of the SU Alumni Association and member of the Northern New Jersey Alumni Club and several other SU groups and committees. "I feel my role now as an alumni leader is to embrace new technology to reach out to people and help them," he says. "Social networking aids that in so many ways."

Like Spector, alumni across the country now use social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn to stay connected with the SU community. The SU Alumni Network on LinkedIn has more than 12,000 members, who can participate in discussions, post and search for jobs, and even write recommendations for one another. Local alumni clubs have Facebook pages where members can become "fans," find out about events, share photos, and post questions. 

The SU Office of Alumni Relations, which hosts its own online alumni community, has developed a presence on these sites within the past year and uses them to provide information about events like Orange Central and class reunions. "The speed of it is so critical," says Ellen King, executive director of alumni relations. "When you're an alum looking to make that connection and you can make it right away, that's great." 

The Boston Orange Alumni Club created a Facebook page in 2007 to promote events like a basketball game party and a concert featuring SU alumni. "Pretty quickly, we had a couple hundred members online and, all of a sudden, we had a huge spike in the number of people coming to events," says Erika Sievert '04, club vice president.  

Last year, the Philadelphia Alumni Club used its Facebook page to advertise an SU license plate fund-raiser and organize a trip to a Philadelphia 76ers game. "It's a quick, easy, and free way to spread the word about events and membership in the club," says club president Andrew Laver '01.

The clubs still keep in touch with members through e-mail and mailings to ensure their messages reach everyone who wants to be involved. "There will always be a mix of methods to stay in touch with alumni," says Jennifer Erzen '97, president of the Southern California Alumni Club. "As long as people are using Facebook, we'll be on it."

Kelly Lux, alumni programs coordinator at SU, says professional networking sites like LinkedIn can help alumni take advantage of the large SU community. "There are a lot of people who are interested in hiring other SU people. The rules have totally changed on how to get a job and how to network," Lux says. "Especially in this economy, people are realizing more the value of alumni networking." 

Spector also emphasizes the value of social networking sites in creating real connections among alumni. "It's a great way to connect to people you might not usually connect with," he says. "It's a family out there and everybody really wants to help." 

—Tory Marlin