It’s like an Angie’s List for St. Mary’s alumni—a source to find a business or service provider and a place to list your own business or service. This new directory, set to launch in the fall, is the product of a “Topics in Computer Science” class project.
The 400-level class, taught by Associate Professor of Computer Science Lindsay Jamieson, was modeled after a popular master’s level course at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill instructed by Fred Brooks, computer architect, software engineer, and computer scientist, best known for managing the development of IBM’s System/360 family of computers. Jamieson explained that key to the course is imitating a real industry environment where the students work directly with ‘clients.’
“I needed clients that could understand that it was a class; it was supposed to be a learning experience and that there was a chance that nothing would work at the end,” Jamieson said. She had two takers: the Office of Alumni Relations and the Library. The alumni office tasked the class with developing an alumni business directory, a service long-desired by former students. “I told them, ‘sure no problem,’” said Jamieson. “That will be enough of a challenge to be a semester-long project.”
When creating the project teams, Jamieson said she wanted the structure to mimic what the students would have in a real business environment. The class of 22 was split into two teams of 11. One team would work with the alumni office and the other with the Library. Two team leaders were appointed to serve as point persons for the clients, respectively. Each team leader had two deputies: one in charge of development and the other in charge of documentation and quality assurance.
“We told them [the students] what we wanted and they came back with a plan,” said Dave Sushinsky, director of alumni relations. Throughout the semester the two teams met with their clients every three weeks to provide status reports, present mockups, and obtain feedback.
“You could see them gain confidence each time we met,” said Sushinsky. “They became more comfortable with answering questions, and they worked better with one another by the end. They were like professionals. It was really rewarding to see that progress.”
The alumni business directory, which was designed using a WordPress plugin to match the college’s website, will live on the alumni office’s webpage. “It will be public, so people outside of the St. Mary’s College community will be able to find and access it,” Sushinsky explained.
The directory will be searchable by location or by industry, and, according to Sushinsky, will be promoted through the alumni office’s social media platforms and monthly e-newsletter, “SMCMail.”
“There are lots of alumni businesses and alums love to find out that some of the places they enjoy frequenting are owned by their fellow alums,” said Sushinsky. “It also helps us [alumni relations]. If we’re doing an event in, let’s say, San Francisco and we find there’s an alumnus or alumna in that city that owns a restaurant, we would get in touch with them to see if we can work out something to support their business.”