A space for a new type of community

For many students, a career opportunity could be one click away. Without leaving home, a job-seeking student could find an internship, a mentor or a potential employer with whom they share a common trait –

For many students, a career opportunity could be one click away.

Without leaving home, a job-seeking student could find an internship, a mentor or a potential employer with whom they share a common trait – they both attended Temple University.
With one click, a connection between a current and former Temple student could be established.

This is one of the features available at MyOwlSpace, a networking community provided by the Office of Institutional Advancement and the Alumni Association that aims to assist past and present Temple students with career advancement and social opportunities while keeping them connected to the university, according to the Web site.

MyOwlSpace, which launched July 11, is home to about 2,500 users, a solid number for a month-old online community, said Mary Beth Kurilko, director of Web communications for the Office of Communications. The service essentially replaced the old “alumni and friends” site, which was less user-friendly and suffered from infrequent updates, she said.

“We wanted to redesign [that] site,” Kurilko said. “Our idea was to incorporate social networking tools such as chats and message boards along with the other types of user-created content that is very popular with everybody now.”

In addition to chats and message boards, MyOwlSpace includes a career center, where students and alumni can share business-related information, and a classifieds section.
With a significant portion of Temple’s 240,000 alumni living in or near Philadelphia, the career center provides current students the opportunity to network with people in their field of study.

“Our first audience is alumni and friends but current Temple students are also a major part of our audience,” Kurilko said. “We want current students to log on to the site just like alumni would. They have the opportunity to search for mentors and employers and contact that person.”
The site also provides Temple graduates with the unique option of writing “class notes.”

Before the service launched, alumni participated in online surveys to find out what new features they wanted to see on the site. The addition of class notes was one of the most requested features, Kurilko said.

About 800 user-submitted class notes have been posted on topics ranging from professional accomplishments to employment changes to births and adoption announcements. Some users have even posted baby pictures in their class notes.

Other features on MyOwlSpace include news and events listings, an event photo gallery and a clubs and groups section, which includes student organizations, schools and colleges. A blogging feature is being considered for the future, Kurilko said.

Although alumni were made aware of MyOwlSpace, which went through several test runs since its conception earlier in the year, prior to its “soft” launch in July, traffic on the site really started to pick up after a university-wide e-mail advertising the site was sent Aug. 15. The following day, the site went from about 350 hits per day to about 3,400 hits per day, Kurilko said.

“We weren’t quite sure what to expect when the site launched,” Kurilko said. “We didn’t have a site like this before with this whole new set of features. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much people are engaging in the site.”

MyOwlSpace is one of several social networking sites being utilized by colleges.

Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania both offer similar sites to past and present students.

The name of the site itself could be interpreted as a take-off on the popular social networking Web site MySpace, although Kurilko said that that was not intentional.
“It’s a part of that MySpace idea of building a community,” Kurilko said.

Senior journalism major Kelly White, the contributing editor of Philebrity, a Philadelphia blog that covers the arts, gossip and media, said she was not enthusiastic about the prospect of another social networking site when she received the e-mail about MyOwlSpace.

“I thought it was kind of ridiculous,” White said, adding that she thinks that MyOwlSpace and other similar college sites are going after the MySpace and Facebook audiences.
White briefly wrote about MyOwlSpace in a recent edition of her Philebrity column, “Kelly White Explains It All.”

“Temple rolls out MyOwlSpace weeks before you want to stalk any of your classmates,” White wrote. “If you were readying yourself for social networking backlash, wait for it. We think this is enough to cause a mass revolt.”

White hasn’t signed up for the service, but she said she wouldn’t rule it out if it “would be useful” to her academically.

Asked if students would be receptive to the non-social networking aspects of MyOwlSpace, White said, “Students aren’t going to take it that way.”
“If they use it, they’re going to use it for social things,” she said.

Kurilko said students should know that there is more to the site than the social networking features.

“You don’t have to do any of that if you don’t want to,” Kurilko said. “The service is more for current students to start networking with alumni. We have an incredible alumni base that wants to hire [students].

“We’re not trying to be another on of those [social networking] sites,” she said. “We’re just incorporating features that people enjoy from those sites to better connect you to Temple graduates.”

Tyson McCloud can be reached at tyson@temple.edu.

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