Hey take a look – we made the Chronicle!
Travis Kaya from The Chronicle of Higher Education paid a visit this week and had some nice things to say about us. Inevitably they dropped the F-bomb but it’s alright, we know that breaking the mold means you have to do the best you can with comparisons. Overall it was a warm piece and sparked some conversation in the comments. Mathmaven – I couldn’t agree more! The question is how do we get there?
I actually spend quite a bit of time working with this. We attract new members every single day and the rate at which they’re arriving is faster now than it ever has been. When I started back in February we had something like 700 members. We’ve almost doubled that in just over half a year. The community itself is the number one source of recruitment. You folks talk to you colleagues, write amazing blogs and recruit people to your groups and that in turn creates a stream of new members. It’s pretty amazing to watch from the back end. That being said though, it’s important to keep an eye out for new ways to bring people aboard. As you might recall I spent some time this summer passing out flyers for the Commons at the Graduate Center’s ‘Welcome Students’ day. We’re also very close to having a guide that can be emailed and printed in hard-copy that we’re excited to launch to the greater CUNY community. We can certainly work on ways to increase our visibility within CUNY but I suspect that referrals are always going to be our greatest source of new membership.
With that in mind it’s important for us to remember that the best way to encourage people to bring their colleagues aboard is to make sure we’re always providing the best possible resources. To do that we depend on you to tell us how it’s going. What would you like to see? Having any problems? Feel like something is too complicated? When we don’t hear from you we start thinking up new features and ways to refine the site but if we’ve got a problem we want to know about it first.
All that considered, the Chronicle piece is great because it shows just how unique this project is. In some ways the problems that the Commons was created to solve are unique to the CUNY system. 23 colleges and somewhere around 20,000 employees is a huge number to wrangle. Working together as a university when we’re situated across every edge of New York City is a challenge, and without the agility of the internet at our disposal it’s easy to see how things settled the way they did. And while the Commons is an elegant solution to the barriers of both spatial and institutional distance I’m eager to see what other universities will do with their own ‘Commons’ as the idea spreads. We’re not the only university that’s stretched it’s physical limits and with budget cuts under way across the academy tools like the Commons might become indispensable in negotiating pecuniary limits as well.