5 Steps for Building & Strengthening Students’ Networks

Step 5. Build Networks that Last: Making Sure Your Students Remain Connected and Continue to Expand Their Networks

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Guiding questions:

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The lessons that [Bob]’s taught me over these years have made all the difference because he became a champion for me and the university. I say a champion because a mentor will give you advice, but a champion will knock down doors for you.”


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    Access to and the ability to mobilize relationships is a critical asset in today's workforce.

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    If you don’t maintain them, relationships naturally “decay” and lose value.

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    Alumni are a critical asset that often go untapped.

The only reason we’re combining incredibly high-touch support with lower costs is that alumni do everything for each other.”


If you’re trying to build students’ longer-term networking skills → Embed skill building into community-building activities:

If you’re hoping students’ networks outlast programming → Build in opportunities and infrastructure for students to get back in touch:

If you’re trying to boost students’ persistence and success long-term → Use relationship maps to remind students about various connections they’ve formed along the way:

If you have trouble keeping track of alumni → Integrate network-building strategies to keep alumni engaged in your community:

  • COOP enlists alumni to staff its programming and maintains ongoing alumni support networks via community events and Slack.

    COOP is a nonprofit that helps Black, Latinx, low-income, and first-generation college graduates overcome underemployment. Each cohort of 16 COOPers is assigned four Captains who work collaboratively to guide their cohorts through the 200-hour COOP experience. Captains are themselves COOP alumni who serve as part-time, near-peer coaches, receiving a modest $1,500 stipend. Although many alumni do this to pay it forward, COOP also strives to continue to create value for them. Alumni stand to benefit from referral bonuses for bringing fellow COOPers into their companies, managerial and leadership training by serving as Captains within the COOP program, or by simply having access to COOP community events. The organization also uses Slack channels that include alumni and current COOPers alike to provide feedback, celebrate, express gratitude, or provide updates. Alumni are also using the channel to solve for real-time issues at work or trade notes on technical skills. For more on the COOP approach, check out our COOP case study.

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    Evidence of impact
    Sample data collection strategy
  • Union Capital Boston (UCB) hosts Networking Nights, during which its network leaders prompt members to share “asks'' and “offers” to generate dynamic, responsive resource exchange on a regular basis.

    Union Capital Boston is a community-development model in Boston encouraging civic engagement and increasing access to employment through a platform that rewards member participation in community events. Once members join, UCB works hard to maintain participants’ access to social capital through frequent “Network Nights.” These include an activity called “Marketplace” where participants can request or offer help from one another. Read more here.

    evidence icon
    Evidence of impact
    Sample data collection strategy

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