Carleton College Geology Alumni Communications Go Electronic

25 May 2009

The Carleton College Geology Department’s alumni communications are lurching into the digital age.  We’ve been using email sporadically for quite a few years now, but this year we broke into the world of electronic web-based forms with the roll-out of the electronic version of the traditional Newsletter postcard, so here’s an update on its success.

We have been using the paper postcard since the mid-1970s and it’s worked well for us.  This year we decided to try supplementing the postcard with an electronic form hosted on our web site.  This worked spectacularly well, especially after we sent out an email containing a link to the form.  Over 130 people have submitted news on the form!  Thank you all for taking the trouble, it’s a great treat to have all your news and be able to put it in the Newsletter.

The web-based form is clearly the medium that most people prefer; after the email with the link to the form went out, we got a flood of responses from the web form and the flow of alumni news via regular email and paper cards came to an abrupt halt.  It’s as if people were just waiting for the web form to be developed!  The web form has some advantages for us too:  alumni responses from the form actually are converted and come to us as emails and thus can be directed to several people simultaneously.  Copies are sent to me [Tim Vick], our departmental Administrative Assistant Ellen Haberoth, the alumni records database people, and Katie Buckner ’09 who is doing the compilation of the alumni news.  Also, the responses are automatically put into a spreadsheet for easy searching and managing later on.

Another new facet of our alumni communications is our Facebook group entitled “Carleton College Geology. “  Anyone who is on Facebook is free to join at this point, although sometime in the future we may want to increase security by asking prospective members to submit a request to join.  After a little more than a year, the Facebook group has about 260 members, a little over a quarter of all of our geology alums. 

While the switch to electronic media is increasing in our alumni communications efforts, it actually lags the computer use in our labs which has permeated nearly every activity.  But, some things have not changed.  When we go out into the field, we are still using manual, non-electronic tools developed centuries ago such as rock hammers, hydrochloric acid, hand lenses and Brunton compasses.  Heck, we even tell our students to carry pencils and notebooks!  The odd thing is that they don’t seem to notice any dichotomy between the old technology and the new – it’s all of a piece somehow.