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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, July 22, 2004

UH alumni to get online network

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer

Calling all UH alumni.

For the approximately 200,000 alumni of the University of Hawai'i scattered around the globe, there's about to be a virtual community to call your own.


• Call the Alumni Relations Office at 956-2586.

Sometime this fall, UH graduates will have the option of having a UH e-mail address, chat rooms to dip into and a community of folks online to vacation with, share opinions with, go to events with, or simply stay in touch with.

"What we're trying to do is create a Web-based alumni community," said Kevin Takamori, associate vice president of alumni relations for the University of Hawai'i Foundation. He has been working on a virtual alumni community for several months since joining the foundation from Harvard University. There he ran the alumni travel program, which brought together graduates from all walks of life.

Vanessa Ching, who graduated in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in animal science, couldn't be happier. "It's a good idea," said Ching, who is back at UH for an accelerated nursing program.

"I've lost contact with the people I went to school with for my first degree," said Ching. "With this I could find out where they are."

Web-based alumni networks are one of the latest trends on college campuses to give graduates direct communication with classmates, and a chance to participate more fully in programs attached to their college campus.

The idea, Takamori said, "is to build a network of friends and support. It's not a fund-raising mission per se. We're trying to create an alumni culture of support, pride and engagement for the university, both in Hawai'i and overseas. We're trying to create in people a consciousness that now is as good a time as any to show your pride in the university as we build for the future.

"We want to put out a survey at some point and try and figure out what our alumni need," he added. "To say 'who would like to travel with us, or attend life-long learning events, or a golf tournament, or come to wine tastings or receptions?' "

Takamori said he also would like to see an online directory where graduates can look up old friends from school days with whom they've lost touch.

"We'll give alumni a choice of what they do or do not want to display about themselves in such things as class notes," Takamori said. "We still have to figure out the gatekeeper controls."

That idea, especially, interests German student Verena Muller, 57, who graduated in 1985 with her master's in public health from UH and then returned to Europe for her career, although she is often in Hawa'i as part of her job.

"Many of my former classmates work in other countries," said Muller, back in the graduate library at UH researching health promotion within companies. "Most came from Asia, Australia, Canada. People move, and it's hard to keep track. Or I moved," she said, adding that she would like to reconnect with old friends.

Takamori estimates that since the first class graduated in 1911, there are now somewhere around 200,000 UH alumni. The foundation, which now oversees alumni relations, has a growing e-mail list of graduates, but is still far behind with only about 19,000 e-mail addresses compared with about 166,000 postal addresses.

Additionally there are about 3,000 dues-paying members of the alumni association, but that number is growing, he said.

While the university for a number of years has allowed students to retain their hawaii.edu Web address, the new idea would be to extend that offer to all alumni.

There are still numerous technical problems to iron out, and decisions still to be made over such things as whether the network will include only alumni, or whether faculty, staff and supporters may be included as well.

Even students still in school like the idea. Preston Pacheco, a 19-year-old junior, said it's hard to stay in touch with people while you're in school because everyone is so busy.

"This would be a good thing," Pacheco said.

Stay tuned, Takamori said. It's all coming this fall.

Reach Beverly Creamer at bcreamer@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8013.