A new way to network

DAA launches a tool to make it easier to discover connections
Writer: 
March 15, 2016

As the executive director of wealth management for the Boston offices of UBS Financial Services, Troy Erickson ’90 hardly needs another meeting on his calendar. Whatever time he has left after managing the 200-person office is usually spent ferrying his three children to school events and practices.

But when Erickson got an e-mail from a nineteen- year-old intern on UBS’s trading desk last summer, he responded immediately.

That’s because the intern was from Duke: a student named Alex Loughnane, who had just finished his freshman year. Erickson set up a meeting, during which the two chatted casually about campus life and Loughnane’s interest in a career in finance.

“I’m always willing to talk with a student or a fellow alum,” says Erickson. “It’s fun, and I want to help in whatever way I can.”

Such kinship among Dukies can be among the most enduring benefits of a Duke education, opening doors to new contacts, career prospects, and opportunities for students and alumni alike. But for all its eagerness, the alumni network is largely an invisible one, where connections are often discovered by happenstance.

A new tool developed by the DAA, however, could change that. In February, the association launched an online network that makes profile information for more than 150,000 Duke graduates available exclusively to alumni and students through its new website (alumni.duke.edu). The site consolidates previously separate directory, event, and mentoring apps, allowing alumni to search for classmates, sign up for events, follow regional and affinity groups, and update personal information in one place. It also gives students unprecedented access to the alumni network, enabling them to search for alumni, in specific jobs and industries, who can provide mentoring and career guidance.

“Part of the value of a Duke degree is that we have an amazingly talented community available to us,” says Shep Moyle ’84, DAA president and one of the guiding forces behind the new network. “We want to empower students and alumni to access that community at any time and find people who can help them personally and professionally.”

At the new site, alumni will find profiles that showcase Duke-centric aspects of their lives, such as student activities, class notes, event registrations, and volunteer roles. They’ll also see a faceted search that allows them to seek out classmates with particular skills or pursuits.

“It’s really going to be the key to driving those connections among the Duke family,” says Sterly Wilder ’83, associate vice president for alumni affairs. And for students such as Loughnane, the network represents a different kind of key. “When you reach out and find someone who is willing to help you, it’s just amazing,” he says. “It makes all the difference.”