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Webcasts connect alumni to Cornell leaders in monthly series

Donors, friends and volunteer leaders among Cornell alumni now have monthly online opportunities to interact directly with university faculty and senior leadership.

Webcast screen image

The first alumni Q&A webcast featured Andy Noel, the Meakem*Smith Director of Athletics and Physical Education.

Since April, the Division of Alumni Affairs and Development has teamed up with University Communications to connect alumni with faculty and university leaders through a new monthly series of alumni Q&A webcasts. The series is patterned after the webcast series "Conversations with David Skorton" (available on CornellCast), which began in March 2009.

"We started doing these webcasts as a way to respond to the economic challenges we were facing as a university," says Chris Marshall, associate vice president of alumni affairs. "The simple fact was that we needed to get President Skorton in front of alumni. … To save on his time and expenses traveling from place to place, we created a virtual venue for him to interact with alumni. Cornellians have responded extremely favorably, and we have had almost 1,000 participants during the past year."

As many as 100 people at a time can join the webcasts. The format includes five minutes of updates about a college or program followed by 55 minutes of questions and answers. Participants interact with the guest speaker -- and with other participants -- by typing questions or comments into a chat window. Participants can also phone in with their questions. Jennifer Lynham Cunningham, senior director for metrics and marketing in alumni affairs, moderates each webcast.

The first alumni webcast featured Andy Noel, the Meakem*Smith Director of Athletics and Physical Education, and more than 80 people tuned in to learn the latest about Big Red sports. In May, nearly 50 people tuned in as Peter Lepage, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, answered questions about everything from the new organ in Anabel Taylor Chapel to faculty recruitment and retention in the college.

The next alumni webcast is slated for Aug. 30 and will feature Don Rakow, director of Cornell Plantations. Guests scheduled in the coming months include Lance Collins, dean of the College of Engineering; Kathryn Boor, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Frank Robinson, director of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art; and Alan Mathios, dean of the College of Human Ecology.

"Word is getting out to the faculty and other university leaders that these conversations are fun, easy and popular with constituents," says Marshall. "We won't stop doing in-person events -- there is no replacing face-to-face interaction -- but we'll continue to do these virtual events with President Skorton and with our deans, faculty and staff."

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