“Black Bears Helping Black Bears,” is the motto for the newly formed Black Bear Business Network, an online database created by the University of Maine Alumni Association that allows current and former students to connect with each other.
As the need for a streamlined network database became apparent, the idea for the network was set in motion. The initial goal was to have easy access to all of UMaine’s resources as well as resources from former Black Bears.
Susan Mullaney, the director of marketing and communications for the Alumni Association, reported that the Black Bear Business Network is in the process of creating a growing directory of business owners and business people who are all UMaine alumni.
The Alumni Association no longer fundraises for the university, but instead has focused their efforts on networking and helping people stay connected with the university and other alumni.
“[The Black Bear Business Network] makes it easier to tap into the resources at the university like the Cooperative Extension, Business School and the [Foster Center for Student Innovation],” Mullaney said.
The original intent of obtaining 500 businesses and business owners to take part in the Black Bear Business Network was initiated in October, 2011. This goal has recently been reached.
Mullaney talked about the importance of the network for not only alumni but also current students today, saying that the network will help “students to gain more knowledge from fellow Black Bears… for questions, insight and exploration,” Mullaney said. “Our own alumni can guide [current students] by sharing their experiences.”
“You are only a student for four to maybe six years, but you are alumnus forever,” Mullaney said about the importance of staying connected with university as a resource that is accessible after graduation.
Mullaney also suggests that the new networking opportunity will ease the transition from school to work. Once in the work world, the network will help Black Bears get ahead.
Chuck Hastings, an intern at the Alumni Association and a graduate M.B.A student, was hired by the Black Bear Business Network project at the beginning of the semester to develop the network.
Hastings explained the reasons for the development, saying that the Alumni Association has “changed what they do.” The goal is no longer to raise money; rather, the focus is on public relations and networking.
Hastings described the large scale of the development, which is estimated to be a two- to three-year, ongoing project with grand conceptual ideas of what the network could be. For now, Hastings has scaled back, asking instead, “What can be done now?”
For a start, the Black Bear Businesses Network has debuted on several social media sites — such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn — to get its name out there.
Another part of the development process Hastings talked about was to find the target audience for the network. Audiences have been broken down into three categories: people who want a job, people who are looking for a job or people who are giving back their time and resources. Hastings referred to these as the different tiers of alumni.
“There are continued benefits [for each tier],” Hastings said, “and we want to provide more opportunities.”
“[No networks] bridge the gaps between all the resources on campus” Hastings said. “There are times where [multiple] organizations are doing the exact same thing.”
The Foster Center for Student Innovation and the Career Center are great resources for current students and alumni alike, and Hastings hopes to bridge the gaps between each of the resources, bringing bring them together at one common place for people to have access. With combined efforts from other branches on campus and the marketing power of the Alumni Association, Hastings believes the future of the network will benefit all Black Bears.