This summer, I was rushing through the airport in Lima, Peru, nervous about missing a flight, when I spotted someone in a crowd wearing a Pitt T-shirt.
It felt like a good sign. Had there been time, I would’ve said hello. Instead, while on the plane later, I marveled at how connected I felt to a stranger — without ever having exchanged words, thousands of miles from Pittsburgh — just knowing there was a chance that at some point in time, maybe we had both spent late nights studying in the Cathedral of Learning.
What is Pitt Commons?
You may have heard mentions of it from colleagues participating in a pilot rollout. You may have read announcements about it in @Pitt or University Times, or seen communications on digital screens or flyers. In short, Pitt Commons is a new online platform that enables students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the University to establish networking and/or mentoring relationships that are meaningful and specific to their unique interests and academic or career goals.
Think of Pitt Commons as LinkedIn exclusively for the Pitt community, but with a built-in mentoring aspect. You can be assured that everyone on it has a clear and direct connection to Pitt, as well as a vested interest in helping each other succeed. The platform’s flexibility allows everyone to serve as both mentors and mentees.
Other schools and universities — including units at Pitt — have used platforms like this for either career or academic development or alumni engagement activities, but Pitt Commons is unique in that it aims to bring together a vast array of engagement activities like mentoring, advising, networking and connecting, all in one place and for the entire Pitt community: students, faculty, staff and alumni.
What makes Pitt Commons different than LinkedIn?
Pitt Commons is specialized for our community, and it is what we make it. Research has shown that having or being a mentor can make an invaluable impact on a person’s life, and having or not having access to someone like a mentor in college can make or break a student’s experience.
As staff and faculty, our engagement is essential to this platform’s success. We’re in the unique position of being able to answer students’ questions and interact and share with them, even if we don’t have “mentor” in our titles.
There’s a lot of mentoring and networking that goes on across campus — both formal and informal — but there’s no one place to go where it’s all happening. In being active on Pitt Commons, we’re centralizing resources and ideas from mentoring spaces all over the University, giving the entire community the opportunity to access new perspectives, and grow together.
Right now, the call to action for faculty and staff is simple: Complete a profile.
Develop a presence on the site that suits your schedule and capabilities. Help answer posted discussion questions and ask your own — drive engagement. Reach out to someone you don’t know, but would like to. Reconnect with an old colleague or classmate.
By being active members on the Pitt Commons platform, we can also build and expand networks of our own. Even if you’re not connecting to students in a mentor-style relationship, Pitt Commons can facilitate professional connections to University colleagues and help create a more engaged, de-siloed workplace.
Down the road
Currently there are around 2,300 people on Pitt Commons. As that number grows and as new features come online, updates and news will be shared through @Pitt.
Eventually, phase two will be how to incorporate Pitt Commons into your syllabus, into your classroom, into conversations with colleagues.
Keep in mind
When creating a profile:
You have a lot of control over your own profile. You can select your availability preferences, including the number of new messages and meeting requests you’d like to receive each month, and who can see what.
You can indicate your areas of interest and your areas of expertise — topics you’d be comfortable discussing with colleagues and potential mentees — and show up in only those relevant searches.
You can link your Pitt Commons account with your LinkedIn to auto-complete a profile and sign in. (Note: As of March 1, 2019, changes to LinkedIn privacy settings will prevent syncing certain information including: headline, location, summary, current position or public profile URL. This will not affect those who have already registered their profile on Pitt Commons. More information about this can be found at https://bit.ly/2GSMRH5.)
While students can see your profile, you can’t see theirs. This is to protect the privacy of our students.
The more complete your profile is, the easier it will be for the Pitt Commons platform recommend relevant, meaningful connections.
While there is a “groups” function, right now, faculty and staff aren’t being asked to join groups. Instead, Pitt Commons will grow and flourish by just getting online, connecting with colleagues, participating in online discussions and engaging with others on the platform.
So, what are the next steps?
- Visit commons.pitt.edu to join Pitt Commons. Sign in and complete your profile using your My Pitt username and password.
- If you’ve already created a profile, take a few moments to update your matching preferences.
- Upload to store and share files, such as your CV, resume, work samples, etc.
- Input your own career goals and share the best career advice you’ve received on your profile.
- Browse upcoming events like career fairs and networking workshops. Or, create one of your own.
- Browse the discussion boards — find a question that you want to answer and start a conversation with people.
- Explore the community at-large — see who else is in Pitt Commons and start connecting.