How Williams Uses Switchboard to Engage Students and Alumni

Williams on a fall day. Photo by Ledges  via Flickr .

Williams on a fall day. Photo by Ledges via Flickr.

Francesca Shanks, assistant editor & social media specialist at Williams.

Francesca Shanks, assistant editor & social media specialist at Williams.

It's no surprise that the college with the oldest alumni association in the country should continuously top the list of schools with the highest alumni giving rates.

And we weren't surprised to see the Williams Switchboard flourish as soon as it launched in August 2014.

In the 15 months since then, more than 1,800 Williams students, alumni, staff, and parents have signed up to post more than 900 asks and offers.

The Williams Switchboard has become the go-to place for Ephs of all ages to exchange advice, look for places to stay, and find rides to and from campus for reunions and breaks.

We asked Williams's Assistant Editor & Social Media Specialist Francesca Shanks about Williams's success.

Tell us a little about your community. What do you love about it?

Williams is a private, residential liberal arts college with around 2,000 students in Williamstown, Mass., 135 miles from Boston and 165 miles from New York City. We’re surrounded by the Berkshire Mountains, and there are beautiful vistas almost everywhere on campus.

Though our views are scenic, there’s no shortage of culture here, which is something I love—we have three fantastic art museums, annual film and theater festivals and a thriving performing arts center.  

Why is Switchboard right for your community? 

The Williams community is passionate, supportive and respectful; Switchboard helps set that tone online and helps us get the word out about interesting community events, ask for and offer advice about careers and internships and connect with one another in a useful, meaningful way. 

What were you using and doing before Switchboard? How does Switchboard help now?

Before Switchboard, there was no inclusive online way to seek apartment rentals, ask for ride shares and sell your stuff—we had a bulletin board that was mostly student-oriented, but it hadn’t been very active in recent years. 

We have an active career center (career counselors regularly meet one-on-one with students) and a place for student job listings, but it’s great to have Switchboard as another, sometimes more open-ended option.

So far, how has your community responded? Do you have some favorite posts or success stories?

The community has responded positively—we have nearly 2,000 people signed up, mostly alumni and staff members, with a few hundred students. You can see from our SB success stories that having Switchboard emphasizes the best things about our community—we’re a group of people with diverse interests and experience, and we all use those interests and experiences to help others when possible.  

Williams Switchboard success
Williams Switchboard success
Williams Switchboard success

What is your vision for your community's future, and how does Switchboard fit into it?

We’d love to get more students signed up, but otherwise we’re happy with the progress we’ve seen in just over a year. There are new posts and new signup requests every week, and we plan some outreach in 2016 to boost enrollment further.

Want to learn more about Switchboard?