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Strengthening CMU student-alumni ties

Central Connections makes networking easier than ever

| Author: Aaron Mills

Pam Murray, class of ’77 and ‘83, says she’s not a “techie.” But for the sake of those following in her footsteps as Central Michigan University students, she’s one of many CMU alumni signing onto a new interactive program called Central Connections.

Its purpose: to help current students tap into the powerful network of CMU’s vast alumni community.

Central Connections is a web-based app that’s accessible through web browsers on phones, tablets and computers. This joint project by the Career Development Center and Alumni Relations is set to launch for students in mid-March, but alumni have been building its userbase since late last year. They’re completing online profiles listing locations, areas of expertise, and help they can offer, such as résumé reviews, advice for college life, mock interviews, career consultations and more.

Current students will receive email invitations to join the new Central Connections community after spring break. All CMU students, faculty and staff have accounts linked to their global ID and need only to log in to activate them.

“The platform gives alumni and students the ability to connect with one another,” said Erica O’Toole, interim director of the Career Development Center. “LinkedIn can be great for networking and making connections, but it’s hard to know if working professionals will reply to a student’s outreach. Central Connections eliminates the guesswork by connecting those individuals who are already committed to networking with and mentoring CMU students.”

Or, as Associate Director of Alumni Engagement Brittany Milan puts it, Career Connections provides “a friendly foot in the door, giving students a boost of confidence and support from alumni who want to see them succeed.”

Central Connections not only serves current students but also offers something many alumni want: a peer-to-peer networking platform and a way to stay connected and give back to the CMU community.

“I give back because of the positive impact CMU had on my life — both personally and professionally,” Murray said. “I want students to have the same positive experience I did, as well as take advantage of programs that I wish I had: Study Abroad, student chapters of professional organizations, local volunteer activities, etc.”

Murray earned her bachelor’s degree in family relations and psychology from CMU in 1977 and a master’s degree in personnel management in 1983 through what is now Global Campus. She retired in April 2020 as senior benefits administrator at Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“I have met many alumni who say they would like to get involved with CMU, but they do not know how because they have lost contact with their campus connections,” she said. “Central Connections will enable them to get involved.”

For those who want to join the conversation, here are 10 things to know about Central Connections:

  1. There’s no charge for students, faculty, staff or alumni to activate their accounts and use the web app on their mobile or desktop device.
  2. Although users can share opportunities and resources, the main purpose of the platform is mentoring and networking with other members in the CMU Community.
  3. When users log in, a dashboard will show connections, resources, a discussion board and quick links to special features. Central Connection’s algorithm may recommend connections, or users can search for alumni offering advice or discussion on any topic. Students can send messages asking to connect; alumni are not able to search for students.
  4. There are many ways to filter searches, including by career field, location and interests. Users also can search by personal traits such as being a first-generation college student or part of an identity group.
  5. Central Connections features an open discussion board for all, including anonymous posts. Users can share resources through the discussions. A CMU team reviews content.
  6. Person-to-person messaging is mirrored in email, so users can correspond without having to log in. Central Connection’s calendar can sync with Outlook, iCloud, Google and other calendars to schedule appointments or record users’ availability.
  7. The web app includes writing templates and can provide feedback on the professional quality of users’ communications.
  8. Alumni also can connect with other alumni through the web app. Murray said she plans to use it to plug into the CMU alumni community in Sarasota, Florida after she and her husband moved there.
  9. Users can join any of several affinity groups for discussions and sharing about topics such as arts, communication and media; careers in business; or health professions, public health and life sciences.
  10. The expectation is that current students will continue to use the web app after they leave CMU. “As students graduate and move into alumni status, then they can turn around and engage on the platform from that perspective,” O’Toole said.