On Sept. 25, the launch of WiN 3.0 signaled further developments for the Wheaton in Network program. WiN 2.0 expanded this year to give recent alumni a place in the program to mentor and help students prepare for life after Wheaton. Wheaton in Network hopes to be a tool to increase the bond between alumni and students.
The WiN system overhaul has been based on much feedback from students who have used WiN, as well as students who have completed WiN training, but have not used the system for various reasons. Junior Anna Morris, who has contributed to WiN’s development, said, “The new WiN has changed a lot from previous models that students may have used. Now, students are able to see the names and companies of registered alumni, whereas they weren’t before. Additionally, students can recommend an alumni connection to a friend, search for alumni by more specific career and activity fields and send messages to alumni by email after the initial connection has been made.” Morris added, “I want students … to feel excited about WiN. It is an amazing tool and competitive edge for Wheaton students … Alumni really want to connect with us and to foster meaningful, helpful relationships with students. That’s something that’s said a lot, but that’s really true. WiN can help students to connect with those alumni in a way that is easy, effective and, hopefully, really impactful.”
Wheaton alumna Emily DeLew ’08 helped shape WiN into what is today. Upon entering her senior year at Wheaton, she was fearful of not finding a job or knowing what to pursue in the future.
Although she was active in programs such as Gospel Choir, Youth Hostel Ministries and Wheaton in Chicago during her time at Wheaton, DeLew struggled to find a job immediately after graduating with a sociology degree. She spent four months volunteering in Zambia, then returned to work in downtown Chicago.
“I learned so much from that first job,” DeLew said. “It helped me figure out what it’s like to be in the work world.” However, after two years she was eager for a change, and found herself back at Wheaton, this time as a faculty member.
As current director of alumni connections, DeLew manages a number of programs for alumni and students that are focused on connecting alumni with both students and one another. As an alumna and an employee, she said that she constantly asks herself, “How can Wheaton provide value to alumni, wherever they may be?” To answer her question, she develops new initiatives on a regular basis.
In 2012, DeLew was part of the team that launched Wheaton in Network, or WiN, as a resource for current students and alumni. DeLew described WiN as “an online tool that connects students to the Wheaton family for conversations about calling, career and life after Wheaton.” This online program, developed for Stanford University, was adapted over the years in a way that has made it increasingly Wheaton-friendly and specific. The program relies on alumni to sign up to be advisors, filling out profiles so that students can search for people with the connections or careers that they might be interested in. DeLew emphasized that alumni have been eager to contribute, and two weeks after the program’s initial launch, 1,200 alumni had signed up to be advisors.
The purpose of WiN is not only to prepare students for the future, but also to reinforce the value of their current Wheaton education. As DeLew said, “When you leave Wheaton, the value of your education is often expressed through your network and community. There are a lot of ways to connect with Wheaton, and WiN provides you with a strong link to that community.”
Sophomore Erica Forkner, who works with Student Alumni Board, said of the most recent developments that, “Since the WiN launch, I have had multiple opportunities to speak with students on how Wheaton in Network has allowed them to make connections with Wheaton alumni. I have interacted with students who have already begun to reach out to alumni in their field of study and with similar interests. In talking with many of them, I have found that Wheaton students have recognized this tool as a helpful asset in career planning and mentorship.”
There will be training events for Wheaton in Network throughout this coming year, helping to spread the word about this tool and giving students the ability to practice forming connections with those around them. DeLew said, “There is something really sweet about reconnecting with the Wheaton family when you’ve been out for a while. Generally, Wheaton people love Wheaton people.”