TartanTrak fails at tracking alumni

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It’s no secret that students in the humanities often struggle to find relevant resources in their fields at Carnegie Mellon. Recently, though, I finally gave Carnegie Mellon’s online recruiting system, TartanTrak, a try. Specifically, I tried using ProNet, a tool for current students to connect with relevant alumni from a student’s major, career interests, industry, and geographic area, in addition to other search criteria. The results I received were frustrating and disheartening.

As a professional writing major, I began my search with a few parameters like “professional writing major,” “interested in publishing and printing,” and “in Pittsburgh, Pa.” My search brought zero results. Broadening my search to one parameter, “professional writing major,” yielded six results. Carnegie Mellon has thousands of alumni from all over the world, and the Department of English website website boasts “almost 30 years of experience educating professional and technical writers,” and only six of these alumni are willing to receive an email from me regarding my future? I find the notion either very sad or very unlikely. In the case that only six alumni of my major are willing to give back to campus by helping current students, some serious work needs to be done in building morale and pride in the program.

What about my friends who are here studying other majors, such as global studies or linguistics? Thoroughly intrigued by the lack of results I received for professional writing, I also ran searches for “global studies major” and “linguistics major,” which each yielded zero results. If the answer to the lack of support in these areas of the humanities is the newness of the programs, I find that a legitimate argument. But I also feel the university and specifically Dietrich College should have suggestions for finding resources for students in these departments.

The problem I find more likely, though, is a lack of communication and outreach to alumni in the many departments and programs Carnegie Mellon has. If TartanTrak is going to be marketed by the Career Center as a place to explore your options, then the claim needs to be true. The university has an obligation to reach out to alumni in all majors, especially if they are going to suggest ProNet as a resource to connect with relevant alumni.

Other big issues with ProNet also need to be addressed before it can be seen as a helpful resource for students of any major. In my attempts to navigate TartanTrak’s ProNet search, I ran into a lot of confusion.

There is a section for specifying “College/University” on the search page with no explanation for what that means. Is the list of schools presented places that Carnegie Mellon alumni also attended? Is it a list of schools where a students might want to attend after their time at Carnegie Mellon?

Along the same train of thought, when specifying my state in the search box, I could choose between “PA” and “Pennsylvania.” Cleaning up the search page and adding better descriptions and directions are all overlooked issues that should be taken care of if the Career Center ever expects students to make regular use of the website.

ProNet is a great idea in theory. Providing undergraduate students the opportunity to connect and network with alumni in their field or major is an admirable goal. But in order for these connections to happen, Carnegie Mellon, and especially Dietrich College, needs to reach out to more alumni, and the website must be made more user friendly.