An online professional network, the Sallyportal, geared toward connecting the Rice community, launched Oct. 12 in honor of Rice Day.

Sallyportal, named by Rice alumnus Matt McGee (McMurtry ‘16), is a product of the Rice Education of the Future Initiative report that the Rice Student Association compiled in 2014. The report emphasized the student need for professional mentorship, and thus, the idea for the Sallyportal began to take form.

This new online hub offers a variety of resources to facilitate networking among the Rice community, including a message board where students can communicate with alumni and faculty, a capability that allows faculty to recruit alumni volunteers and a connect tab that allows users to search for members of the Rice community based on industry, company, major, residential college and more.

Mariah Lawhon (Jones ’16), a former student member of the REF task force that helped develop this project and the current Alumni Relations Sallyportal manager, sees the Sallyportal as a great way to foster Rice community collaboration.

“Students can seek advice from Rice alumni and parents who have raised their hand to say ‘I want to help Rice students,’” Lawhon said. “It’s a painless and accessible networking experience. Alumns can also connect amongst each other, and alumni and parents can see many different campus programs, professional development events and volunteer opportunities in one centralized location.”

Won Hee Cho, the Student Association co-chair of the Future Alumni committee, highlighted the key differences between RiceLink and the new Sallyportal, which offers opportunities such as connecting with mentors for a professional career or graduate school, identifying networking events, and posting questions on message boards.

“Some students think that the only reason they'll ever interact with alumni is to find internships during their breaks,” Cho, a Lovett College sophomore, said. “So they might ask, ‘How is this any different from RiceLink?’ It's different because this allows you to network with alumni for a number of other reasons, not limited to finding internships.”

Karen McDonell (Jones ’77), director of Alumni Programs, emphasized the benefits that Sallyportal offers to Rice faculty as well when she spoke at the Faculty Senate meeting this past Wednesday.

“You can recruit alumni volunteers for your classroom or for your colleges,” McDonell said. “If you work with certain student groups, this is a great way to support them. You can also get out the word to students about research opportunities, promote departmental events, and find alumni mentors for your students.”

To celebrate the launch of Sallyportal, the Association of Rice Alumni set up three Sallyportal stations across campus on Wednesday. Students who signed up for the network and stopped by these stations received free t-shirts and the opportunity to discuss this new website.

McMurtry College freshman Chris Botello expressed his enthusiasm about the unique opportunities that will be available to him and other Rice students through the Sallyportal.

“As a freshman, I think Sallyportal is really important because it allows us to reach out to alumni who are already in the workforce,” Botello said. “It can help make us feel more needed or wanted in particular fields because there are alumni who can provide us with insight into the workplace.”

Julie Fette, deputy speaker of the Faculty Senate, spoke about the positive impact Sallyportal could have, especially for students in the School of Humanities.

“[Sallyportal] is especially gratifying for us in humanities who have trouble convincing our students to choose a humanities major against so much parental pressure to find a so-called ‘practical’ major that leads to a predetermined employment,” Fette, a French professor in the department of classical and European studies, said. “The alumni connection that will be made possible through Sallyportal will enable undergrads to realize the enormous possibilities of careers, regardless of major.”

The SA Future Alumni Committee hopes to promote this new online tool among Rice undergraduates to extend their alumni networking efforts, Cho said.

Cho said he believes the site has the potential to truly benefit students and the overall Rice network.

“The Sallyportal is designed to be a more intimate and free version of LinkedIn for the Rice community,” Cho said. “We're hopeful that students will be able to use this online resource as a way of branching out into the larger Rice community and maintaining useful connections.”