Campus is more than bricks and mortar: How Yale brings their gathering space online with PeopleGrove

yale-campus

Quick, picture your alma mater’s campus… 

You may be thinking of an outdoor space on a bright, warm, sunny day. There’s a lot of open area with grass and trees intersected by pathways bustling with students off to their next class, the library, or to take a nap. Perhaps there are students lying on blankets in the grass or others throwing a frisbee (because someone is always throwing a frisbee). This space may even be adjacent to an iconic building with classical architecture elements that just feels like college. 

For me and my fellow Georgetown University alumni, that space is the combination of Healy and Copley Lawns. It was where you met your friends to have a GUGS Burger on Fridays or enjoy a bit of sun with others before the next lecture. Of course, everyone has unique places on campus that hold special memories for them, but most Hoyas would picture Healy and Copley Lawns instantly when asked to think of campus.

Gathering spaces like these invoke strong and special memories for students and alumni. However, with campuses closed due to COVID-19, those spaces currently lie empty. But many schools are adapting by bringing the feeling of those spaces online.

It’s no wonder then that Yale’s Cross Campus (powered by PeopleGrove) draws its name from the physical space that conjures those fond memories for students and alumni, as E.J. Crawford writes in an April 7th article announcing the launch of this community.

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The Same Spirit of Collaboration

“We envision this as a game-changer for connecting alumni with students and with each other,” said Weili Cheng ’77, executive director of the Yale Alumni Association, which arranged the launch of Cross Campus. “Cross Campus offers an online platform where Yalies can come together in the spirit of collaboration and engagement, to provide advice and guidance, and to help each other through career and professional and personal transitions.”

There was a conversation about delaying the launch of Cross Campus due to COVID-19. But in the end, the decision was made that launching an online community platform at a time of social distancing made more sense than ever – offering a way for alumni and students to connect at a time when connecting is harder than ever.

“These are tough times,” said Steve Blum ’74, senior director of strategic initiatives for the YAA, which led the Cross Campus initiative. “In many ways, Yalies need each other more than ever right now. And while we cannot assemble physically, we can connect virtually, either by establishing mentor-mentee relationships, connecting for one-off advice, or joining groups with common interests. Cross Campus allows for all three.”

And, Blum added, therein lies the beauty of this new online community.

“Cross Campus creates unique community-building and networking opportunities,” Blum said, “and our Yale connection drives that. As a mentee, you already share something with your mentor – something reinforced by shared interests and goals. This is personal and relational, not just transactional.”

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A Community Built on Serving the Needs of Its Members

In a way, this time of social distancing has surfaced an important struggle that has always existed for institutions. 

  • How do you give a community that’s spread across the world options to engage in one, unified space? 
  • How do you bring the feeling of your campus’ gathering place to those who can no longer physically be there?

Along with those questions, Yale has also recognized that the foundation of such a community has to be built on the needs of the community members. Time and time again, alumni attitude surveys have shown that: 

  1. Alumni wish they had more career preparation when they were a student, and
  2. They still want that support after graduation.
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An example of an alumni attitude survey. We’ve seen the same results across the country.

Cross Campus’ focus on building meaningful relationships between Yalies to support each other through career, professional, and personal transitions is the framework for an active and engaged community. We’re proud to partner with Yale as they bring the vibrancy of their campus across the digital boundary, especially at a time when it’s needed most.

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To learn more about how PeopleGrove is helping institutions like Yale and hundreds of others build a single destination for networked communities that support the entire student lifecycle, contact us. We’d love to help.