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Alumni Set to Get Lifetime E-mail Accounts from MIT

By Dan McGuire
Associate News editor

The graduating Class of 1996 will be the first to use a new array of electronic services currently being rolled out by the Alumni Association.

The first will be Electronic Mail Forwarding for Life, a service that gives alumni an electronic mail address of the form user@alum.mit.edu that will forward e-mail to an internet account that they designate.

Diana Strange, director of special projects for the Alumni Association, said that the increasing electronic presence of alumni was a major factor in the decision. The number of alumni e-mail addresses registered with the association jumped from "5,000 to 11,000 in about 15 months," she said. "That's what makes the service interesting."

"The Internet is an obvious tool that allows alumni to keep their connections" to each other and to the Institute, she said. The most important part of the service is that "there is kind of an MIT quality of interchange," she said.

"One of the things that the internet does is allow [alumni to] stay in touch with [MIT's] kind of intellectual activity without coming here," Strange said.

It's like "bringing the firehouse into your living room," said L. R. Johnson '63, the chair of the ad-hoc committee on alumni network services.

"The Alumni Association had been doing some surveys," Johnson said. "One of the things that alumni wanted most is to be able to find each other," he said. With e-mail forwarding, alumni could keep in contact even if residences and e-mail addresses change."

"That's kind of the electronic community that we're talking about," Johnson said. "It can't help but be good for common linkages between alumni. We just have to make them feel good about the Institute."

E-mail the first step

The current e-mail forwarding program came from a discussion that started last summer about how to exploit technology to allow alumni to keep in closer contact with each other. "There was informal discussion for probably a year," Johnson said. "There were experiments [into using e-mail] being done by other schools and we were aware of that."

"We talked about things like putting the Alumni Register out on a CD-ROM," Johnson said. "It was an evolutionary discussion of how to use the technology to better the alumni relationship," he said.

An e-mail forwarding service "could be done relatively quickly and was very visible," Johnson said. "I have to admit that [we had] kind of a marketing hat on but, face it, that's what you've got to do," he added.

The forwarding service was put out for bids and over the past several months the committee whittled the choices down to two: one external vendor and one internal vendor, Information Systems.

The service will cost between $10,000 and $50,000 to start up, depending on how much money will be invested in the beginning and how much will be invested later.

"One vendor has recommended an entire package including World-Wide Web services," Strange said. The ability to present Web pages will be used for another upcoming rollout of career services for alumni. Also waiting in the wings are online directory and location services, as well as some type of real-time communication services like Zephyr, she said.

Alumni can get more information and register for the e-mail forwarding program at http: //web.mit.edu/alum/www/Information/Services/efl.html.