Universities Use IoT to Increase Alumni Engagement

A strong alumni network can be a boon for college students, but making connections with alumni is a fraught process. One company has developed a solution that allows graduates to share their expertise with students when and how they choose, strengthening ties to their alma mater and helping their fellow collegians.

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Image credit: Protopia

Numbering in the hundreds of thousands, alumni can be a university’s most valuable and diverse network of experts. Graduates typically have an affinity for their alma mater and often are willing to share their advice. Universities strive to promote these interactions, as they simultaneously benefit students and boost ties to the institution, which hopefully, translates to donations.

According to a U.S. News report, the average alumni giving rate is only 8 percent at US colleges. However, the 10 colleges at the top of the list report two-year average alumni giving rates of 44 percent. Active alums are three and a half times more likely to donate back to their alma mater, so universities face the conundrum of how to engage alumni, rather than simply asking them for money. One of the most beneficial ways to build an active alumni base is to open the lines of communication between current and former students.   


Accurate Intelligent Connectivity 

Enter Protopia, and a dose of artificial intelligence. The company’s platform uses AI to connect current students with alumni. Protopia tailors the platform for each university, and the software integrates with the university’s existing platforms, ensuring that the alumni data is current.

Students can ask for advice, submit a resume for feedback, or seek job leads by filling out a simple online form with their name, email, and inquiry. Using an artificial intelligence engine with natural language processing capabilities, Protopia culls through the university’s alumni database and forwards the message to a handful of the most relevant alumni. The algorithm considers a graduate’s area of expertise, career experience, skills, location, education, and other factors. Messages typically are sent via email, but can go through Slack or SMS, as specified by the alum.

The recipient responds to the student within a few days of the initial request. If the alum doesn’t respond, Protopia’s AI algorithm sends the student’s message to the next grad on its list until a match is made. Messages are sent through Protopia, so alums maintain privacy. Protopia even coaches students on how to follow up with the alum.

AI-enabled Engagement 

Protopia’s goal is to make the system easy to use, which means there is no separate app or login. It integrates with a university’s existing platforms or can be used as a standalone solution. Alumni don’t have to sign up to be a part of the AI network, but they can opt out if they choose. Because the platform is open to all alums, the university’s full network of graduates is available to become mentors and--the school hopes--donors.

The Protopia solution alleviates a stumbling block for students: sifting through directories of graduates to find a qualified person to contact. Alumni can choose when and whom to help; they can adjust how frequently they are asked to participate in the program, giving them control of their time.

The idea behind Protopia came from resume reviews. Founder Max Leisten developed a plan to ask professionals to review resumes, and it was a success. Jobseekers got valuable input, and reviewers were happy to help up-and-comers. He expanded that idea to a broader goal: connect people in meaningful ways to boost alumni engagement and, indirectly, university fundraising at the same time.

  • For more information on how the system works, visit Protopia.
  • See how the system connected hundreds of thousands of Duke University alumni and students. 
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