David Zheng

The Yale Alumni Association officially launched Cross Campus, an online program designed to facilitate relationships between Yalies, even as many find themselves physically distanced from University life.

The program, whose launch date of April 7 was planned in advance of the campus shutdown, connects members of the Yale community — current students or alumni — with people who have shared interests. Cross Campus aims to establish relationships that can facilitate networking or mentorship opportunities as well as general social connections between generations of Yalies.

“This is the first time that we are able to connect the Yale community no matter where the students and alumni are located,” said Nancy Stratford ’77, chair of the YAA Board of Governors. “It’s very exciting and really transformative.”

Cross Campus is a website platform that allows users to create an account including basic information such as Yale affiliation, year and major. The website also includes a “matching quiz,” which asks questions about preferred industries, types of advice that the person wants to receive and cities in which they would like to make connections. Based on the above preferences, the program recommends connections: with the click of a button, Yalies can then message each other, choosing from pre-filled templates or crafting their own.

Stephen Blum ’74, senior director of strategic initiatives at the YAA and project leader for Cross Campus, pointed to a similar pilot mentoring program that ran from 2015 to 2019, with around 600 alumni. While that program was very successful, he said it was “home-grown, a massive Excel spreadsheet” and not something that could handle an increase in users. As an online program with tailored recommendations, Blum explained, Cross Campus allows for the same one-on-one relationships as the old interface, while also allowing for scalability.

Blum also stressed that Cross Campus can also forge bonds within the alumni community in addition to the connections between current students and alumni. For example, Blum recently spent 45 minutes on a call with an alumna who specializes in improvisational comedy and wanted to know how to network better. Stratford agreed with Blum, as she often uses the app to connect with old classmates or other alumni with shared interests who populate her screen.

For current students such as Elizabeth Olshanetsky ’23, the student-to-alumni interactions are Cross Campus’s most valuable offering, especially given how willing she said the alumni are to give advice. According to Olshanetsky, her interests of tech, finance and business span multiple fields, so Cross Campus helped her envision what careers and potential internships in those different areas might look like.

“You have this network that’s available to you of people that have gone through Yale,” she said, describing Cross Campus as “a resource to learn about Yale on a deeper level and also explore potential career opportunities.”

Cross Campus launched with a goal of 5,000 sign ups in the first three months, but the platform surpassed that number in just eight days. As of Sunday night, approximately 7,000 Yalies have joined.

Moving forward, Blum hopes to increase that number as much as possible through more targeted launches, especially once campus reopens. He also wants to open up the platform to more Yale community members — including faculty members, friends of Yale and Yale parents.

“It helps make the campus infinite,” Blum said. “With a platform like this, the campus really doesn’t have boundaries.”

Both Blum and Stratford acknowledged that this program comes at a much-needed time, given that the physical location of campus is not available and people are hungering even more than usual for human relationships as well as ways to remain tied to Yale.

“It’s a sad accident of history that we find ourselves at a time where making connections is hard,” Blum said. “Here’s a platform where those connections can be made.”

Cross Campus includes profiles from people on every continent except Antarctica.

 

 

Madison Hahamy | madison.hahamy@yale.edu