Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarríbar introduced Yale Connect, an online platform designed to support student life in Yale College, the graduate school and the professional schools, in a March 31 collegewide email.
According to Lizarríbar’s email, Yale Connect, a platform provided by the University Secretary’s office, provides a unified calendar, centralizes large events like freshman orientation, creates a searchable database of student organizations and “gives tools to student organization leaders.” Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Hannah Peck told the News that former Associate Dean for Student Organizations and Physical Resources John Meeske ’74 began the project around five years ago.
“[Yale Connect] reflects our commitment to catch up with the best practices in student affairs and student organization management. Yale Connect is a major step forward for us in this regard,” said Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway. “[It] is a flexible and powerful tool that will allow us to better understand student organization practices and needs.”
Holloway added that he hopes the platform will allow the Yale College Dean’s Office to do a “better job” delivering services to students.
When students sign in to Yale Connect, they will see portals for each student organization and University department. By default, students will belong to portals they need, such as the Yale College portal for undergraduate students, though they can also join other portals, Peck explained. According to Lizarríbar’s email, joining a portal grants students access to the information it contains and allows students to receive updates on their Yale Connect feed.
Similarly to social media websites, the feed populates according to the groups students join. Students are able to see the events listed in each portal and even export them to their personal calendars if they so choose.
“It’s essentially a Facebook for student organizations, which I think is super cool,” said YCC President Peter Huang ’18.
Huang noted that while the platform will allow the YCC to streamline its announcements, it may be too early to comment on how much of a difference it has made since it was just introduced to the University community.
Adding that the YCC was not directly involved in making the platform a reality, Huang added that student involvement mostly came in the form of student organization consultants, students who work with the assistant dean of student affairs and a student affairs fellow to support undergraduate student organizations.
“The work of selecting and tailoring this platform has fallen largely to students, who for years have asked for better tools for scheduling, sharing information and connecting,” Lizarríbar said in her email.
According to Peck, the student organization registration platform that existed prior to Yale Connect began to fail gradually, providing the impetus for a new design. The old platform, while “exactly what the [University] needed” when it was created around 10 years ago, was built by students and not fully supported by Yale ITS.
“Over the 10 years it broke down a little bit more every year, and we knew we were going to get to a point where it actually broke, which is what happened last year when we switched everything over to Google Forms,” Peck said. “We knew that was coming and that there were a couple of tools we could look at.”
Yale Connect runs on OrgSync, an online community management system offered to higher education institutions in the United States and Canada. In addition to OrgSync, the University also considered using Campus Labs, a similar organizational platform. Ultimately, Peck noted, those leading the project chose OrgSync because it met most of the requirements.
But Campus Labs and OrgSync are now merging after being purchased by the same parent company; consequently, within the next year or two the University will be able to avail itself “the best of both of the platforms,” Peck added.