As Alaina Plauche, a graduate student in the public policy department, checked her email, she saw the University sent out a formal notice. And this one caught her eye.
The notice, sent out last week, announced that the University was introducing a new campus-wide alumni engagement platform, HEELSENGAGE.
The development of HEELSENGAGE began in early 2022, with the platform being tested on a smaller scale by a few departments, alumni and students. The network launched campus-wide on March 20.
The inspiration behind the creation of the platform was to provide a campus-wide solution to connecting and engaging alumni with the UNC community while providing mutual benefit to students, faculty and staff.
The HEELSENGAGE Network is meant to further UNC’s Carolina Next strategic goals – a plan committed to ensuring students and alumni can connect with people and networks needed to succeed and enable career development. The platform provides a space for alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends of the community to connect, get career and academic advice, receive mentorship and find job opportunities.
Plauche is set to graduate this summer and will be finishing up an internship for the professional part of her program. She plans to use HEELSENGAGE to talk to other users to help her decide what she wants to do after August.
“To see people who have common interests and maybe studied similar things as me in undergrad or in grad school, and really connecting with people who graduated from UNC who I didn't know and figuring out what they didn't like, helped me figure out my path too,” Plauche said.
Roderick Lewis, interim executive director of University Career Services, said the platform is like LinkedIn but specifically for the UNC community. It seamlessly includes jobs from UNC’s Handshake platform while showing alumni and other community members who have similar job titles to jobs already posted or those who might already work at a particular company that a user is interested in.
Alumni can post job openings from their companies as well as experiential learning projects for current students.
When users complete their profile interests and begin their activity on the platform, it generates career path recommendations for users to further explore. Students can search for alumni and other UNC community members to reach out to as they progress through their academic and career journeys.
Lewis said in an email that when alumni are given the space to stay easily connected and engaged with the UNC community, it helps to strengthen their ties and relationships with current students, faculty and staff.
“Online networking can be more comfortable and accessible to people of all backgrounds and experience levels,” Lewis' statement said.
Sarah Crockett, associate director of career development for the Undergraduate Business Program, said HEELSENGAGE allows users to share more of their narrative on their profile instead of the typical virtual resume used by popular online networking sites.
She said she believes that more alumni signing up to engage on the platform helps create a space for them to connect with current students and share their stories.
“The biggest thing I talked about with students about networking, or doing that first call or thinking about it is overall: people want to help other people, generally in life, and especially Tar Heels want to help other Tar Heels,” she said. “Whether it's sharing their story or helping them learn about a company or knowing when to apply to something.”
Crockett said that while networking can be nerve-wracking, hearing from people who have experience working in a particular career or field can help to assess and explore if that’s a path somebody is interested in pursuing further.
“And that's the point of networking: to learn, to hear about what things are like and start to assess whether that's something you might want to do as well,” she said.
Students interested in HEELSENGAGE can sign up online.
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